Thoughts as a new mayor takes the gavel

By The Courier-Gazette Editorial Board | Nov 29, 2018

We would like to congratulate Lisa Westkaemper on her election as Rockland's new mayor for a year, and to take a moment to thank outgoing Mayor Valli Geiger for her service to the community.

Westkaemper was elected by a unanimous vote of her fellow city councilors just a year after being elected to the council in November 2017.

Some of us met her prior to her work with the City Council in the process of reporting on her work with the Millay House in Rockland and the Millay Festival. She has had a career in both the arts and government, having served as a city councilor in Texas prior to moving to Maine.

We wish her the best of luck as she takes over the position of mayor. Some might argue that since this position is largely ceremonial, it may not make sense to draw such attention to it. However, running City Council meetings is an important job. The mayor is often the face of city government and the point of communication between that government and the community.

To that end, we encourage Westkaemper to be open to comments from members of the public at meetings and to strive for transparency, diplomacy and civility in all of her dealings. The public can be hard on city officials, so we also urge our new mayor and all of the councilors to refrain from taking comments in the community personally.

Rockland faces issues that can be divisive -- what to do with short-term rentals, how to adjust zoning in the community to balance protecting our quality of life with the need for future development and how to regulate cruise ship visits. Residents will become passionate in discussion of these matters, and seldom will any criticism be about the city officials as individuals. Instead, concerns about the issues will be the real driver. At least that is how it should be.

We recognize it can be a difficult time to serve as a public official, and so it seems appropriate once in a while to voice some appreciation for those who step forward to serve their communities as elected officials.

So we also say thank you to Valli Geiger for serving as mayor of the city for the past year. Geiger is in her second term on the council, and she has worked hard in the position. She meets regularly with many constituents and has worked hard to empower women in our city.

We look forward to reporting on the work of both Geiger and Westkaemper in the coming year.

Spirit of community on display with Festival of Lights

Organizers, sponsors, participants and spectators deserve thanks for the success of the annual Festival of Lights Parade, the lighting of the trap tree in Rockland and the arrival of Santa by water this past weekend.

In particular, Rockland Main Street Inc. deserves a shout-out for its role in producing the Festival of Lights event each year.

The event launches the holiday season each year and draws many spectators. These events also always serve as a reminder of the spirit of community that exists in the Midcoast, as spectators brave the weather and the cold to show support for local businesses and organizations participating in the parade.

We look forward to a fun and safe holiday season.

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