Candidates' night Aug. 19

Selectman candidates share their views

Special election Aug. 27
By Beth A. Birmingham | Aug 06, 2019
Source: File photo

Thomaston — Three candidates are vying to fill the vacant seat on the Thomaston Board of Selectmen.

Diane Giese, Charles Frattini and Zel Bowman-Laberge are hoping to capture their fellow residents' votes in a special election Aug. 27 to fill the seat expiring in 2021 that was resigned by Beverly St. Clair.

Diane Giese

Giese, an entrepreneur, has resided full-time in Thomaston for nearly six years. She owned and was the chef at her restaurant, Pentimento, in Cambridge, Mass., for nearly 20 years, before operating two restaurants in Portsmouth, N.H., for a short time.

A business offering financial services for small businesses led her to the nonprofit sector, where she was business and grants manager for Sexual Assault Support Services, then executive director of a large food pantry in Portsmouth.

"When I bought my house in Thomaston, I was thinking of it as a retreat; but after a year of weekending, I realized this is where I wanted to be," Giese said.

The impetus to run for selectman came from a friend, Giese admitted, but she said the idea had been percolating a bit.

"I feel that Thomaston is at a watershed moment and I hope I can be a positive participant at this critical time," she said, adding that she feels securing intelligent, forward-thinking, energetic, patient, strong leadership in a new town manager is one of the most important issues facing the town.

"While embracing all that I loved about Thomaston when I moved here, I would like to see 21st-century ideas to encourage new businesses, to improve employee policies, to help save the amazing historical legacy the town possesses and to be a civil, civil servant," Giese said.

She was one of the founding volunteers in 40 Days of Summer, a summer food and activities program now in its sixth year, which has been adopted by the Friends of the Thomaston Public Library, where she is head librarian.

"This was begun to address the dearth of summer food options for children when school is not in session, and, while a free and totally inclusive program, is hopefully helpful to some of the 60 percent of the children in Thomaston who receive free and reduced [-price] lunches at school," she said. "Not only does this program address possible food insufficiency, it is great fun, with lots of activities, both volunteered and engaged."

The program is free to all and financed through donations and grants.

"I think our common bond -- the candidates and residents of Thomaston -- is a great love of this little, important town," Giese said.

The mother of two grown sons, she has two teenage grandsons and three older dogs, and holds a bachelor's degree from Mount Holyoke College.

"I still love to cook (even though I am in restaurant recovery), read all the time and love that I can see the river and magnificent sunsets from my little house," she said.

Charles Frattini

Frattini, a former Marine, moved to Thomaston in September 2017, and currently is the general manager of Phi Builders & Architects in Rockport.

His second career is as a television personality and survivalist, and he has a part in the Discovery Channel's "Naked and Afraid XL." "This show is the most real reality show on TV, and it is a challenge which tested my physical and psychological strength," Frattini said.

"I feel these two qualities, along with integrity and moral fortitude, are important characteristics needed to create the town selectman Thomaston needs and deserves," he said.

Frattini said he decided to run for selectman after taking on a position as owner's rep for the town of Rockport on a major architectural development project, and serving as an alternate on the Thomaston Planning Board. He also served a short time on the Lura Libby Building Committee.

"Through these experiences, I discovered I could use my professional skills to assist my own town in moving forward in a positive direction, provide a stable platform from which to support the town’s progress, and to hopefully provide exemplary leadership," he said.

Frattini said he intends to be a part of helping Thomaston live up to its potential. "We have such fantastic architectural gems in the community, and restoring them is vital to what makes Thomaston such a wonderful place to live," he said, adding that he and his wife are in the process of renovating an 1852 sea captain's house on Route 1.

Frattini said the following are among the important issues in Thomaston:

-- Relocating the Town Office from the Watts Block to the former Laura Libby School, which he favors, and transforming the storefronts into commercial business space.

-- The firehouse -- there is a far greater issue than where will the fire trucks/station is housed, Frattini said. How to get today's youth involved in the fire department must be looked at.

-- Creating a thriving business district in town, along with using the former prison site to draw in visitors would be a boon for the economy, he said. One of his ideas is establishing an annual Knox County Fair or a weekly farmers market. Frattini thinks the use of the prison site is an opportunity waiting to be discovered.

"If I am elected I have only one hope -- that I will see us united in support of a better, more fair and equitable community for all citizens of Thomaston," Frattini said.

"While I have not been born and raised in Maine, I understand the significance of the local history and culture of Thomaston. I am adamant about preserving the local way of life while still being an advocate of moving Thomaston into the future," he said.

Zel Bowman-Laberge

Bowman-Laberge grew up in Trescott – a small unorganized territory in Down East Maine. Her mother is an artist and teacher, and her father was an engineer who served his community on various boards and committees, but also as the town manager of Lubec for many years.

"I learned how important it is to be generous to your community and support your fellow Mainer," she said.

After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design with degrees in architecture, she returned to Maine to take a job with a Rockport firm. When looking for a home to restore, she said she fell in love with Thomaston for its "incredible" housing stock and small-town personality, and in 2014 bought a historic farmhouse, where she currently resides.

"I became involved with municipal government a couple years ago following the passing of my father," Bowman-Laberge said. "I felt motivated to use my professional skills to benefit the town the same way he would have."

She was chairman of Standing Municipal Facilities Committee and had the opportunity to work alongside the Select Board and many other citizens, allowing her insight into the challenges and opportunities facing Thomaston.

"As an architect, I work with a team of people from diverse backgrounds to complete a project," she said. "As a selectman, I will be a team player, working with people to accomplish our goals."

Her other community involvement includes being a member of the Lura Libby Building Committee. "I volunteered to join these committees because of my background in construction, and have learned a lot from the generous residents about the vision for the future of Thomaston," Bowman-Laberge said.

Over the last decade, she has volunteered her professional services to nonprofit organizations, and is currently working on an artist housing project in Rockland.

Bowman-Laberge said the most important issue for Thomaston is to keep property taxes manageable for everyone by evaluating town, county and school district spending.

"It is critical to continue to review the town properties to make sure we are utilizing our assets to their fullest potential and honoring our history," she said. "Another way to reduce taxes is to bring in new businesses. One of the best ways we can make Thomaston attractive to new businesses is by supporting our existing local businesses and making sure they have a voice in our town."

She said she would like to help Thomaston plan for the future.

"We need to continue to explore the future of Watts Block, Thomaston Academy, the remaining space in the Lura Libby Facility and the Thomaston Green [former prison site] while considering all town departments’ current and future needs," she said. "I look forward to working with the Fire and EMS Departments on their new facility. I am also enthusiastic about the opportunities that local renewable power and fiberoptic internet could bring to Thomaston.

"I cherish the natural resources of our town, including the St. George River for fly-fishing and Georges River Land Trust trails for cross-country skiing," she said. "I also enjoy gardening and beekeeping in my backyard, where many generations have worked the land before me."

Bowman-Laberge works remotely as a licensed architect for a residential design studio with its head office in Los Angeles.

"The projects I help manage on are all located in Midcoast Maine, so I get to work with an incredible group of local builders and craftsmen," she said. "As a remote employee, I have joined the co-working community at the Steel House in Rockland, where I have a small office that utilizes fiberoptic internet."

Thomaston will hold a candidates' night Monday, Aug. 19, at 6 p.m. in Watts Hall, 174 Main St. The special election by secret ballot will take place Tuesday, Aug. 27, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the American Legion Hall, 10 Watts Lane.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.

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