Burpee wants Belfast to feel young again
Belfast — Thomas Burpee says if elected Mayor he would put Belfast on a course for the future by focusing on jobs and education, while preserving the city's history and character.
Burpee is a 2008 graduate of Belfast Area High School and co-owner of Bay Taxi for the last five years. He said both his recent experience in the Belfast school system and his experience as a small business owner will help him create opportunities in the city.
"I feel we're on the precipice of a new era in Belfast," Burpee told The Republican Journal in an interview Wednesday, Oct. 24. "We're going to see a massive push toward 21st-century jobs, and Belfast has to begin to prepare."
Burpee laments the loss of Belfast's younger population. Speaking from his experience as a relatively recent graduate he said he has seen many of his friends leave the area with no plans to return. He hopes to remedy this by using the Mayors position to attract business and educational institutions to the city to focus on information technology.
Citing athenahealth and Front Street Shipyards as evidence for Belfast's ability to attract businesses dealing with technology-based health care and modern high-tech yachts, Burpee said the area's education system must grow to train workers for technology and internet-focused jobs.
"Belfast stands a good chance of bringing a full-blown four-year University to the area," Burpee said.
Burpee also hopes to open more communication between the Regional School Unit 20 board of directors and the City Council. He'd advocate for an increased focus of vocational education and training in information technology, as he sees those as increasingly important in the modern job market.
Burpee has seized on the campaign slogan "Hope is what defines us," and clearly demonstrates his knowledge of the area and its history when talking about how a hopeful populace kept Belfast going through both booms and busts.
"Hope is a centerpiece ingrained in Belfast," Burpee said.
He said he recognizes the limitations of the Mayor's position, which is largely a facilitator of City Council meetings and the tie-breaking vote in the event of a split decision, but also carries a ceremonial purpose as well. He has plans to engage in this ceremonial purpose by championing new events for the city.
"I'd start with a July 4 celebration," Burpee said. "I'd like to do something spectacular."
He is quick to praise what has already been done by the current Mayor and those that served before him, especially in the downtown area and the city's parks. He does not find much to improve on, though mentions the Public Works Building as in need of attention.
"People move here for the downtown and for our parks," Burpee said. "I won't mess with that. The parks and downtown are great and don't need to change."
However, Burpee thinks his youth would help him bring fresh perspective to the Mayor's office, though the 23-year-old candidate admits his age has come up in a negative way during the campaign.
"What I struggle with is people not taking me seriously because of my age," Burpee said. "But what I want them to know is I am a business owner who pays attention."
Burpee is running against incumbent Mayor Walter Ash and local business owner Jim O'Connor. Voting in Belfast will be open Tuesday, Nov. 5, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at United Methodist Church on Mill Lane and the Belfast Boathouse.