Shepard, Phillips win seats on council

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Ronald Shepard

Ronald Shepard

Suzanne Phillips

GORHAM — Voters Tuesday chose two candidates with council experience for three-year terms on the Town Council.

Incumbent Ronald Shepard and Suzanne Phillips were winners in a four-way race for two Town Council seats, defeating Mark Faulkner and Lee Pratt. Shepard, the town’s former police chief, was the top vote-getter with 2,237, while Phillips tallied 1,949. Pratt, a Planning Board member, had 1,131 votes and Faulkner, 1,124.

Shepard, 69, Town Council vice chairman, swept the three wards and central. He said Wednesday the next few years will represent a “game-changer” for the town he envisions for continued growth.

“I feel good that people supported me,” Shepard said. “I’m looking forward to the next three years.”

Phillips, 41, returns to the Town Council after a three-year term on the School Committee. Phillips, a nanny and photographer, was jubilant at Ward 2 after tabulating results. “I’m happy that so many people want me to serve on the Town Council again,” Phillips said. “I’m happy to get back to work.”

Shepard and Phillips will be sworn in when the Town Council meets at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the municipal center, 75 South St. The board will choose its new chairman and vice chairman along with filling committee assignments.

The new Town Council will face the impact of growth.

The town’s population has expanded at a record pace in recent years and the school enrollments are increasing significantly.  The population has risen from 16,381 in 2010 to well above 17,000. The high school enrollment is 850 this fall in an aging building designed for 750 students.

An architect has been hired to draw a concept plan for a high school project. The state won’t help fund a high school renovation/expansion.

Shepard said last month that he would want a project that meets the needs of students and one the property taxpayers can afford.

Also before the election, Phillips said the town didn’t prepare for the population growth. She said a high school project is needed and she also wants it affordable.

The seven-member Town Council could authorize sending a high school renovation/expansion project to voters in a referendum, possibly in 2019.

Town Clerk Laurie Nordfors reported 4,228 cast ballots of 13,479 active voters, representing a 31 percent turnout on Tuesday.

Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or rlowell@keepmecurrent.com