AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine (WAGM) -Election day is coming up and there are several local races taking place. Tonight WAGM, with the Aroostook Partnership, begin our Political Profiles. Each candidate was given 5 minutes to answer the same 3 questions. These questions were provided ahead of time. The interviews were all done by Zoom. We begin with Maine State House District 1 between Democrat Dana Appleby and Republican Austin Theriault. Here is Democrat Dana Appleby.
Jason Parent, Aroostook Partnership: Alright, let’s start with our first question, that’s simply, what are your top three priorities if elected, in the coming legislative session?
Dana Appleby, Candidate, State House District 1: Absolutely, I’m happy to share that information with you guys. My first priority, I think is in the forefront of most peoples lives these days is lowering costs for Maine families. Due to supply chain shortages, and the war in Ukraine, lots of prices have gone up. So, everything has gone up from the cost of our groceries, to of course heating our homes and up here in Aroostook County, that’s a major priority since we have it so cold here and with winter on the way, we’re rightfully worried about the cost of heating. I want to make sure that the state is doing all we can to ease the burden on our communities. Reducing the cost of living will be my focus as your state representative. My second priority will be environmental protections. Including cleaning up PFAS forever chemicals, protecting our natural environment and ensuring that our community is resilient in the face of several weather events like we are seeing in Florida right now. And supporting our schools and teachers. I am a teacher, I’ve been a teacher for many, many years and I’ve just recently gone back to working in MSAD 75 as a substitute teacher. I did that for a couple of reasons, one that I missed working with children, but two so I could be a little more flexible in running for this campaign and also, if I were to be elected, I could work as a sub when I’m not in Augusta, if I was chosen to the be house representatives selection from this area. And as a teacher, I understand the challenges in our education system. In our district, we’re dealing with unprecedented loss of teachers and childcare workers to more profitable careers. Daycares and schools need to be supported in order to serve the developing minds of our communities. Our children are our future and they will soon be members of our community. We want to keep them here in our community so we need to make sure we’re educating them with skills that would translate over to working in Northwestern Aroostook County. As your representative I would support legislation to attract and keep good teachers and daycare centers open in our area. I will also support the efforts to investigate the impact of covid 19 on learning. Remote learning had a huge impact on children and I think we need to give a little grace in that area and make sure that our kids, we support our kids in catching up both academically and socially.
Kelly O’Mara, NewsSource 8: Ok, you have about a little over an minute and a half left. What are your thoughts on population growth, or perhaps other strategies, to address our qualified employee shortages in the region?
Dana Appleby: Ok, so they shortages about qualified employees and skilled laborers is a big issue in our country and especially in our part of the country. It is the result of several factors, therefore, the way we address it, must follow a multi pronged approach. As your representative, I will support initiatives to train our community workers, events at our schools and education, provide fields of study for young people that are unique to our area. Recruit and attract new talent and skilled workers to our region and ensure our local job market is competitive to attract skilled workers to move to our region.
Jason Parent, Aroostook Partnership: Alright, we have just about 40 seconds or so to cover the last question here and it’s Aroostook County’s workforce participation rate continues to decline and is currently at 54% for residents 16 and older. What do you feel the barriers are to increasing this important metric and what are your ideas to reverse this trend?
Dana Appleby: Ok, first of all, we need to lower the cost of childcare and increase affordable childcare options, provide incentives for employers to subsidize their employees child care costs, increase affordability of available housing options, improve access to drug addiction, prevention and recovery resources. Support efforts to attract new workers to our district to train the working age citizens of our district so they are able to qualify for better paying jobs and support health care for all, so all employees can have access to health care no matter where they live or work.
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