Morning Sentinel
FAIRFIELD TO SERVE OR NOT TO SERVE?
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BY SCOTT MONROE
Staff Writer
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel 12/31/2009

FAIRFIELD -- The Town Council will meet for the first time Monday with two new members who were elected at the November elections.

And one of those new councilors, Ed Finch, didn't even want to be elected. Sort of.

In October, a few weeks before the election, Finch announced at a public forum that he was withdrawing from the five-person race as a "a personal decision." But his decision came too late to legally have his name removed from election ballots, so he asked that people not vote for him.

They did anyway, electing Donald Giroux Sr. with 1,137 votes and Finch with 995 votes for the two open seats. Robert Sezak finished third with 900 votes, while Bruce Harrington and Phil Roy followed with 878 and 770 votes, respectively.

When he was informed of the election results by the Morning Sentinel, Finch said, "This flabbergasts me," though he said he was "going to keep all my options open" and not make a decision on whether to serve until January.

Finch has the option of declining to accept the seat and leaving the council to appoint someone else to a one-year term.

But it appears Finch may have decided to accept his post on the Town Council after all.

Contacted on Wednesday, Finch said he had no comment on the matter, but said he would attend Monday's meeting, which will be held at 4 p.m. at the Town Office conference room. The meeting agenda released this week lists his name as one of the town's five town councilors.

"I don't think this is a story and I'd rather not make it one," Finch said.

Town Clerk Tracey Stevens said Wednesday she had spoken with Finch and "he was willing to serve."

"But he could change his mind up until the 4th," Stevens said.

Finch, a retired teacher, is also a three-term Democratic state representative for District 84, which includes Fairfield, Rome and Smithfield. He will serve his final year in the Legislature in 2010 because of term limits. Finch also served for 12 years on the school board.

Sezak, who missed out on a council seat by finishing behind Finch, said he would accept Finch's decision to accept the seat.

"He won, legitimately so, even though he had said he was resigning. I think he was surprised at that," Sezak said. "But he got the votes."

In fact, Sezak said the situation has left a new opening for him: he plans to file paperwork to run for Finch's state representative seat in the upcoming November 2010 elections.

It's not that uncommon for public officials to be elected in cases where they aren't formally running, said Michael Starn, spokesman for the Maine Municipal Association. Starn pointed to the example of former Auburn mayor John Jenkins, who tried to step down in 2007 but was re-elected anyway by write-in ballots.

"They're very unusual, but they do occur from time to time," Starn said. "I've seen it in smaller towns many times over my 30 years, where you have elections on the floor of town meeting, a selectman will have been elected for a number of years and tell everybody they need to put somebody else in and nobody gets nominated except for the person who's been doing the job for such a long time."

Scott Monroe -- 861-9253

smonroe@centralmaine.com