ROCKLAND — The Rockland City Council will vote Monday night on who will serve as mayor for the next 12 months.

Councilor Sarah Austin said she is seeking the post. She is entering the third year of her first three-year term on the Council, being elected in 2020 as the top vote-getter.

The Courier-Gazette emailed the three current City Councilors (Austin, Louise MacLellan-Ruf and Nicole Kalloch) and the two Councilors Elect (Adam Lachman and Penelope York) asking them who they will support on Nov. 21 and what qualities they want in a mayor. The email was sent out Tuesday morning.

Councilors Austin and MacLellan-Ruf were the only two who responded to the email.

The mayor moderates the Council meetings, presides at official city functions, and nominates members to city boards and commissions. The support of three councilors is needed for election to the post which has been held for the past two years by Ed Glaser who did not seek re-election to the Council. Glaser was elected to serve as a Knox County Commissioner. He will assume that post in December.

Austin said the role of mayor is a face of the city, and sets the tone for open and positive interactions with local government.

“I feel I can serve both the organizational and ceremonial facets in a way that the city will be proud of,” Austin said.

Austin said her aims as mayor would be to:

    • Conduct city meetings and business with professionalism and respect for citizens, staff and councilors, and encouraging community engagement.
    • Give any proposed ordinance, resolution or order a place on the agenda for public discussion. Free and open debate should be part of our democratic process.
    • Set up regular communication with our volunteer committees, commissions and boards to ensure we use their valuable time and effort to best effect. Work with city staff to develop training and reference materials so new volunteers are confident in their roles.
    • Establish a Housing Advisory Committee, as it is one of the most pressing issues in Rockland, and we currently lack dedicated staff or committee to marshal resources around this core issue. Expanding our capacity to explore ideas and opportunities around housing is urgent.
    • Connect with other towns in Maine that face shared challenges. Use these coalitions to call attention to state policy in crucial areas such as the inequitable school funding formula that drives Rockland taxes up.
    • Build on my positive relationships with our state legislators to keep Rockland’s concerns at the front of their work.
    • Revisit Council goals quarterly to ensure important matters move forward. Maintain standing meeting agenda items for primary goals so progress can be frequently discussed.
    • Encourage expanded community engagement in the city by hosting a volunteer fair for municipal and nonprofit groups. Helping residents, new and old, find ways to support local causes they are passionate about will strengthen our local relationships in a divisive era.
    • Commit to holding monthly open “office hours” in convenient locations like the Rockland Library or Flanagan Center, and encourage other councilors to do the same. “I trust my fellow councilors will consider these goals alongside my efforts to govern fairly and rationally on council thus far and consider me for the privilege of being Rockland’s mayor in the next year,” Austin concluded.

MacLellan-Ruf said “At this time it would be presumptuous of me to identify who will be mayor.”

“A mayor will put a solid group process in place. Proper chairing of council allows items to productively move forward. Who will do what? When? Where? And how? A mayor works to keep council and staff in the informational loop. This helps guarantee that one’s own agenda is always to do what is best for Rockland. The mayor should have a finger on the pulse of what is needed for the city and work with council and the city manager to achieve these goals. The mayor, with the help of the city manager and staff, creates a step by step process to complete the goals,” MacLellan-Ruf said. “Of course, this is just the beginning of what defines a quality mayor,” she concluded.

MacLellan-Ruf is entering the third year of her second non-consecutive term on the City Council. She was elected in 2013 and again in 2020. MacLellan-Ruf served one year as mayor, being elected in November 2015.

During her term as mayor, MacLellan-Ruf issued an apology after she was found to have contacted a city resident, Mike Grondin, and asked him to come to a City Council meeting and publicly raise concerns about the hiring of energy consultants by Councilor Larry Pritchett. The mayor also asked Grondin to provide any information he got to two critics of the council — Sandra Schramm and Adele Faber.

According to Grondin, MacLellan-Ruf told him that this would be one way to get Pritchett off the Council.

Grondin then went public about the matter, saying he felt bad about doing her work.

MacLellan-Ruf later apologized, saying she never imagined a friend, Grondin, would record conversations she had with him.

At the Council’s Sept. 12, 2022 meeting, Councilor MacLellan-Ruf sharply criticized Mayor Glaser for proposing a ban on new non-owner occupied short term rentals. She also criticized Councilors Nate Davis and Austin who were aware this proposal was being put forward before it was formally placed on the agenda. She said this showed a complete lack of process with no community discussion or vetting by the full council.

MacLellan-Ruf said she was embarrassed by the actions of the council. She said this was an overreach.

“I hope we are able to have a council in November that truly understands process and not their own agenda, not their own social issues,” MacLellan said.

Councilor Austin pointed out at the Sept. 12 meeting that the proper process was followed, which is for an item to be placed on the agenda, an initial vote held and then a workshop can be held or the matter can be referred to a particular committee such as the comprehensive planning commission. After an initial vote, a formal public hearing is also held and additional workshops if needed before a final vote is held.

This ordinance proposal was first submitted for the agenda Sept. 1 and was publicized that day online on VillageSoup. The Council held an agenda setting meeting Sept. 7 and the first reading of the ordinance was Sept. 12. If approved, further meetings would have been held. The ordinance proposal was ultimately indefinitely postponed at that meeting.

The Nov. 21 Council meeting begins at 7:30 p.m.