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Four vie for two seats on Rockport Select Board

By Daniel Dunkle | May 03, 2021

Rockport — Rockport voters will have a choice at the polls June 8 with four candidates running for two seats on the Select Board.

Running are, Eric Boucher, Robert Duke, Chris Hart and John Strand.

Incumbents Debra Hall and Jeffrey Hamilton are not seeking reelection.

Eric Boucher

Asked why he is running, Boucher said, “I was elected to the budget committee in 2019 and in working with the team I realized there was more I had to offer to support the Town of Rockport. I see an opportunity for growth in the community and want to contribute my time and efforts.”

Boucher grew up on Islesboro and moved to Rockport in 2014 to care for his mother.

“I currently work as an Assistant Team Lead at Philbrook and Associates, working with companies to support their business and bookkeeping needs. I have spent my career working in the field of business management and finance. For over 10 years I owned and operated a small business services company that provided bookkeeping and management services. I have invested in and managed real estate in Maine and understand the need for affordable housing in the local area.”

Previously, he served on the Landscaping Committee of Plantation Florida.

In addition to the budget committee, he serves on the Rockport Elementary School Redevelopment Task Force.

“Short-term rentals (STRs) are a hot topic right now,” he said. “I see the benefits of STRs but I also understand there are concerns with how the STRs impact home values as well as the surrounding neighborhoods. STRs provide housing for summer staff for many of the local businesses and also improve the available space for people coming for summer vacations and large events. I am concerned that limiting STRs could cause a negative economic impact in our area. However, I am not opposed to some form of regulation addressing short-term rentals, such as requiring registration of the property, inspections and active management. As the current board has placed a question on the ballot, we will have a better understanding of how the overall community feels about this topic.”

Asked about the hotel being built in the village, he said, “I feel it would be inappropriate to take a position since the hotel is already under construction and the issues are currently under litigation.”

“The biggest priority I see is the underfunded road maintenance budget. We voted on and passed a bond measure to catch up on the prior deferred road work... Failure to solve this problem means we will be looking at poor road quality again in the future.”

Robert Duke

“I have certainly had a strong desire to serve the town in any way I can, so I threw my hat into the ring,” he said.

Duke grew up in Rockport. Starting at the Camden IGA, he worked his way up to management jobs including management for Maritime Farms, both on the retail and fuel sides.

“After 30 years of working for others, my wife and I purchased Floor Magic, a Damariscotta-based flooring business. We opened a second location in 2007 so now the business serves Knox and Lincoln Counties, selling and installing flooring, cabinetry, countertops and window treatments.”

“My wife Doreen and I live in a neighborhood adjacent to Old County Road. We have two children; Jonathan, who lives in Rockport with his wife Jonanna and Son’s Will and Carter, and Daughter Gabrielle, who also lives in Rockport.”

On the issue of short-term rentals, he said, “I am sensitive to neighbors of residents who rent their home on a daily basis. I can see how things can get out of control. I am also in favor of Property Owners Rights. I feel a lot of public discussion needs to occur before a town-wide vote and that discussion should not be on Zoom.”

On the hotel, he said, “If the ordinance allows it then it should be allowed. I do have a problem how an ordinance that restricted only one hotel being constructed by one developer was presented by the town. Obviously, Mr. Smith would be that developer. It just smacks of preferential treatment under the Rockport Voters noses. We have a parking problem and many in the village won’t accept that for whatever reason and the Planning Board accepting Mr. Smith’s solution to shuttle his customers to a remote parking lot doesn’t appear to be an honest solution.”

He also noted other priorities including cleaning up Clam Cove. “This pollution is sourced from Rockland and we’ve known it for many years. I also note that too many resources are being devoted to the village area and not Rockville, West Rockport, Glen Cove.”

“Since my wife and I grew up in Rockport, more specifically the village, we aren’t crazy with how the village has changed. So, I know how the town was and am concerned about how the town is changing. I feel that Rockport should be led by Rockporters who understand what a small community is. But to answer your direct question, I have no priorities or an agenda. I really care about our town and am very cautious of changes.”

Chris Hart

Hart did not respond to emails, phone calls or texts. He works as an athletic director in the Searsport school system.

John “J.T.” Strand

“I have the time, skills, and genuine passion for this community to serve on the Select Board,” Strand said. “I will do so with an open mind and a commitment to listening to all perspectives. I will represent all the people and their rights without an eye towards special interest.”

He has lived in Rockport for three years.

“I have a master’s degree in political philosophy, but never considered running for office until recently. … We have lived in cities, large towns and small towns, in eight different states ranging from Arizona to Wisconsin. But when we came to this part of Maine, we knew it was special.”

Strand said he served as a Navy officer deployed to the Middle East during the “War on Terror.” He is currently an IT project manager “who has worked in the technology and defense sectors.”

“Among other projects, I managed one of the largest IT infrastructure installations in history at Apple Park in Silicon Valley. I now work exclusively from home.”

On the issue of short-term rentals, “I stand against unnecessary government intrusion on private property rights. Pricing working folks out of the rental market is a serious problem that is not good for any community. Although accommodation on this front is important, private property rights are fundamental. Government intrusion is, at times, necessary to ensure personal and community safety (e.g., suspected criminal activity), but it should never be so intrusive as to regulate the number of days a person can rent a room.”

Concerning the hotel, he said, “This is a non-issue. Construction is already underway. Any further challenges will just delay construction, creating an incomplete eyesore that benefits no one. The presence of a small hotel (and it is very small, by hotel standards) will go a ways towards alleviating demand for short-term rentals and the controversy it has created, without imposing draconian regulations.

“A hotel will, however, create a greater demand for a very limited number of parking spaces. Additional parking was needed before the hotel (especially with the completion of the library) and it will be a critical issue in the future. Solving this problem in a way that preserves the spirit of the community and does not create displeasing aesthetics will be a top priority.”

In terms of other issues, he said, “I plan to take a thorough look at property taxes to ensure they are applied fairly and do not favor some groups over others. Since property taxes are so high, it is also critical to ensure that the money is spent wisely without regard to special interest. If there is room for cuts that will not lead to corresponding decline in town welfare, I will push for them.”

Robert Duke
John Strand
Christopher Hart
Eric Boucher
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