by Sarah Craighead Dedmon
Incumbent Machias Selectwoman Paula Johnson-Rolfe this weekend declared herself as a write-in candidate for the Machias selectboard. Municipal ballots will be cast Tuesday, Sept. 1, in advance of the annual Machias Town Meeting set for Wednesday, Sept. 2.
Johnson-Rolfe initially declined to run for reelection but explained her change of heart with a public statement on social media.
“During the last three years, there have been many changes in our little community, as well as some significant personal changes for me with the birth of two beautiful grandsons and the heartbreaking loss of my father-in-law. Feeling a bit overwhelmed several months ago I made the decision not to seek reelection,” wrote Johnson-Rolfe, who was elected in 2017.
“Now skip ahead a few months, many relaxing hours fishing on the lake, I realize that there is still work to be done in Machias along with some recent events that I shouldn't walk away from,” wrote Johnson-Rolfe. “As I reminisce about my experience as a selectperson and the votes cast, I know that I have truly strived to base each decision on research, fairness, and accountability. I hope I have served you well.”
Only one name is pre-printed on the Machias ballot, that of selectboard candidate Les Haynes. In order to be on the ballot, candidates must submit signatures to the town by a March deadline, which this year fell squarely within the most chaotic part of the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to Johnson-Rolfe and candidate Haynes, budget committee member Ed Pellon is also running as a write-in candidate for the Machias selectboard. [See MVNO Aug. 26, machiasnews.com/two-seats-two-candidates-machias-board-selectmen]
In a Sunday interview, Johnson-Rolfe said she wants to see through some issues the board has been working through in recent weeks, as well as build on the board’s work of the past three years, especially supporting Machias businesses.
“Because truly without them, what are we?” asked Johnson-Rolfe. “We need to offer a place where people want to come, where people want to live.”
Asked which town projects Johson-Rolfe is most proud of, she cited the board’s creation of new green space on Main Street, accomplished with the help of Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the current construction of a new playground at the Machias recreation area, its work to create a medical marijuana ordinance and ongoing quest to create a recreational marijuana ordinance, as well as its dedication to keeping municipal spending low.
“Everybody is really concerned about the economy, especially because of the pandemic,” said Johnson-Rolfe. “This year the budget process was very involved, and I went through it line by line. I think fiscal responsibility is hugely important.”
“We need to encourage people to stay here, work here, live here,” she said.
Machias woman Sharon Hernandez briefly launched an online write-in campaign for the selectboard, but put her support behind Johnson-Rolfe when the incumbent announced her write-in campaign.
“I would just like what’s best for the town, and for our younger community members to feel heard,” said Hernandez, age 26 and a graduate of the University of Maine at Machias. “I hope my being mentioned brings attention to the board that my generation does have a voice and also wants what’s best for the community.”
“Paula is more qualified and I would really love for her to keep her seat,” said Hernandez.
Machias voters will cast two ballots on Tuesday — one for the Machias School Budget Referendum, and the other to fill two vacancies on the Machias School Board, two vacancies on the Machias selectboard, and one vacancy on the Machias Budget Committee.
Incumbent school board members Teresa Saddler and William Weaver are running write-in campaigns along with challenger David Brown.
No one has declared candidacy for the budget committee.