By Bill Pearson, Piscataquis Observer: DEXTER, Maine - On election night, Michelle Smith held a slim, eight-vote lead over Fred Banks for a seat on the Town Council. In a mandatory recount on Nov. 18, she expanded her victory margin and was declared the winner.
She and incumbent Councilor Dave Clukey won council seats in a four-way race for the two seats. Clukey won his second term and tallied the most votes with 615. Smith followed with 507. Former Councilor Banks had 499 and former Councilor Charles "Chip" Merrill got 301.
In the recount, Smith expanded her total to 511 and Banks gained one vote.
Smith was the only candidate who didn't have prior experience. She believes that helped her win the seat.
"I think the voters wanted something new," she said. "They wanted someone on the council who hadn't been on it before so they could offer some fresh ideas and be willing to work together."
As a councilor, Smith wants to stop the trend of people moving out of town. She said her goal is to help Dexter "grow the right way" and become a "lively town again." An obstacle to her goal, she said, is that the council has been too focused on issues which have divided the town in recent years.
"We need a council that is all on the same page, and once we do that, we can start to do things to bring people and businesses back into town," Smith said.
Clukey worked as a Dexter police officer for 42 years and served as the department's chief for 28 years. He said that in order for the town to attract more businesses, it needs to improve the downtown's appearance.
"The town needs to do a better job at making the town look better," Clukey said. "We haven't had the money to spruce up the town in the past, but it's important that we find a way to do it now."
Both Smith and Clukey begin their three-year terms in January.
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