Marianne Moore Reflects on Time as Mayor and Calais’ Challenges

By Lura Jackson

Mayor Marianne Moore sat down with The Calais Advertiser to share her experiences and reflections on being Mayor of Calais for two terms, as well as to offer advice to future mayors on the challenges facing the city. With her slight Southern twang, Moore is clearly not “from around here.” However, her story of becoming mayor and presiding over its official proceedings for four years provides valuable insight on what the community is in need of. 

A native of the Dallas area of Texas, Marianne Moore received her MBA in information systems from Southern Methodist University. She worked for many years in data communications, leading a team of thirty-two engineers as they provided hardware and software support to companies across the country. When the company offered her the chance for early retirement at no penalty, she leapt at the opportunity.

A short while later, Moore set the goal of visiting all fifty states. While in Boston, she decided to make the trip up to Maine, and she proceeded to Bar Harbor. “I fell in love with the combination of the mountains and the ocean,” Moore recalls. She visited a few more times before deciding to rent a home in Red Beach. While the scenery was a breathtaking and refreshing reward in itself, she missed being involved in the local community. She took a position as an instructor at Washington County Community College teaching computer programming and design.

It was at WCCC that Moore found the path she was looking for. Joyce Maker, then a part of the college’s administration, gave Moore steady encouragement to run for city council. Despite Moore’s doubts—“I didn’t even think I knew twenty-five people at the time,” she jokes—she received the required signatures and soon found herself serving in public office.

Moore served on the city council for the next nine years. During her time as councilor, she witnessed various styles of leadership including ones that were more combative or less progressive than she felt the city needed to continue its growth. She opted to run for mayor herself, determined to bring cooperation back into focus while choosing to view the city as more of a business rather than a tool to promote a personal agenda.

The one year she wasn’t part of the city council as a result of losing a mayoral election to Vinton Cassidy, Moore felt “out of touch with the town.” That’s one reason she recognizes that communication is so important between the city’s administration and its residents. She said that live broadcasts of the city meetings used to be offered by WQDY, but a lack of personnel prohibited it from continuing. The city itself has looked into the possibility of doing broadcasts, but no plan has yet come to fruition. “It would be so valuable, especially for our elderly,” she said. 

While serving as mayor, Moore said that many of the challenges have remained a constant. “Trying to provide services while holding taxes at the same rate is still a huge challenge,” Moore said. “We need to bring in more businesses.” One tool that Moore believes will help in facilitating economic growth is the development of the city’s TIF districts, now underway by Eaton Peabody. “I’m very optimistic about that.”

Moore sees the partnership between Baileyville and Calais as another boon. “It’s a win-win when you partner with your neighbors,” she said. “One idea behind it is that we could build a ‘spec building’,” Moore explained. A “spec” or “speculative” building is one that is built to the standards common to specific industries for uses as an office building or related purposes. Cities commonly build spec buildings using economic development funds and then proceed to sell them to interested businesses. Moore said that one potential that the ECDC is pushing for is a hotel chain at the end of Route 9 on land now owned by Baileyville. 

While the city is looking to build up properties in some ways, including the newly-acquired former Visitor’s Information Center, it is also faced with the removal of several that pose a threat to public safety. “We do have a lot of buildings that need to come down, and it’s costly to do it,” Moore said. “It still needs to happen. It will make the town look better and more desirable for businesses to move into.”

The restoration of two facets of the city’s fiscal management plan are key to its successful future, Moore stated. One is the city’s paving plan, which allocates funds for paving streets. Last year was the first in a while that the city was finally able to put additional funds toward paving, but Moore notes the plan hasn’t been updated since 2006. Another critical component is the Capital Improvements Plan, which was used to cover a deficit in the school budget. “It needs to be restored,” she said. “The existing council is very supportive, but finding the money without raising taxes remains the challenge.”

Moore spoke briefly on other issues the community is faced with. She said that the police department is “working really hard on the small staff they have” to fight the drug problem, and commended the department’s collaboration with Baileyville and the Border Patrol.

Regarding the loss of housing in the area for the elderly and disabled, Moore said that assisted living units should be brought to the front and center. “They would help keep our community together.” Problems such as those faced by the residents of the St. Croix Apartments are more difficult to tackle. “We did everything we could as a city short of taking it over,” she said of the situation, which will see the displacement of 26 residents.

Being the Mayor of Calais has been a great learning experience for Moore. “I’ve learned a lot about local government,” she said, touching upon the nuances of revenue sharing, fighting for and against bills, and maintaining the budget. “I didn’t realize how complex it could be, even as a councilor.” Moore has decided to run for a position in the Maine State House of Representatives utilizing her compounding political expertise. 

Moore concluded by adding that she hoped that other women would be inspired to run for public office. “If a young girl or woman wanted to go into politics, I would highly encourage her to do so. You can point out things that aren’t right or not good all you want, but if you don’t get involved, it’s wasted.” Acknowledging that politics is primarily dominated by males at the present time, Moore said that the system would benefit from having more females. “Women are multi-taskers. We bring a different perspective.”

 

The mayoral elections for Calais will be held in November. Future terms will be three years in accordance with an amendment proposed by Mayor Moore. Prospective candidates will need to have their papers completed by September. For more information on running for public office in Calais, contact Theresa Porter, City Clerk, at CityClerk@calaismaine.org