If you’re a resident, taxpayer or active member of the Westbrook community, chances are you’ve heard of Mike Sanphy. That’s because very few community leaders come along with the experience and knowledge of a city’s inner workings, public services, citizens, and history that Mike possesses. In many ways, Mr. Sanphy reminds me of my late father Phil (Sr.), Westbrook’s mayor for most of the 1980s. Although those 1980s were booming across much of America, a change was quietly happening here in Westbrook. Our downtown area was still reeling from the effects of the federally backed urban renewal program, and the demographics of Westbrook were slowly changing as well – from the days of a 3,000-strong mill to today’s employment levels of roughly 300.
And increasingly, the days of Westbrook as a residential “pass-through” mill community – that many would drive through as quickly as possible – have changed, as well. Sappi’s new product capabilities still have many of the opportunistic vestiges of the former world-leading S.D. Warren R&D department – where incredibly, the modern-day process of producing paper with wood pulp was developed in 1867. Fortunately for Westbrook, this exceptional research lab has kept Sappi’s business afloat – albeit greatly changed as a smaller and more nimble one amid today’s ultra-competitive markets. Other mill cities in Maine have not been so fortunate. New businesses like Idexx have also helped tremendously.
Today’s Westbrook is clearly different from 30 years ago, but rapid change is once again afoot – and we are at a critical juncture. Like the mill and other businesses, school and student needs have also changed – as well as our public services, infrastructure, and citizen/taxpayer expectations. The explosive growth of Portland and its effects on surrounding communities – coupled with a national push toward improved community connectivity – has only accelerated this change. No longer is our gravest concern about mill closure/local job losses. Today’s hot-button topics of the day are smart growth, school right-sizing, drug use and downtown and river revitalization.
I say all this not as a history lesson – even with the unlikeness I’d ever shy away from such a discussion – but as a point. Candidate Mike Sanphy has seen it all. Unlike any other mayoral hopeful on the ticket, Mike Sanphy has literally been involved in every moment of Westbrook’s modern-day history. Every. Single. Moment.
And, on the off-chance that he doesn’t know the answer to a question or problem, you can be sure Mike will find you an answer or solution pretty quickly – by knowing where, or who, to turn to. I’m guessing most of his time as mayor would be spent either at City Hall or engaging with the city’s citizens from 9-5 each and every day, much like he already does now.
As its longest-serving former police officer, and the current president of its historical society, not only does Mike know Westbrook like the back of his hand – but he’s also the only candidate with Westbrook political experience. Similarly, when my father served as mayor – even as a historical society founder and Westbrook’s first public works superintendent – he never wanted to stop learning about its history and people. In fact, while in office, one of Mayor Spiller’s favorite community engagement activities was to ride along with police patrolmen, and ironically, Officer Sanphy was usually the first one he sought out for Mike’s knowledge of our great little city.
We are truly a special community here in Westbrook, with a unique history, strengths and challenges, and our best days are truly yet to come. And with his experience, Mike knows this city better than anyone.
Please join me in supporting Mike Sanphy for Westbrook’s next mayor.
Philip D. Spiller Jr.