In the municipal election March 12, residents will choose between two candidates for town treasurer and among three candidates for one seat on the Board of Selectmen. The town will also elect a clerk, tax collector and excise tax collector. Here is a look at the three selectman candidates.

Steve Bennett

Steve Bennett, a self-proclaimed bean counter and current member of the Board of Selectmen, said he is happy to do the job of selectman for the town of Freedom, and feels his fellow board members are "great partners."

On March 12, Bennett will be running for another three-year term on the board, against challengers April Turner and Nathan McCann.

Bennett has served as a Freedom selectman cumulatively for nine years. He served in 2004, 2007 and has been selectman since 2015.

Being semi-retired, Bennett said, gives him the opportunity to devote 20 hours a week on average to the position, which includes a 2 1/2 hour meeting every week. He said it can be "thankless" at times.

It is a lot of work, he said, and this year, with all of the COVID-19-related issues, "it's been the craziest I can remember."

All meetings are on Zoom this year, something he dislikes. "It's just not the same," he said.

At the Town Office, a window was installed to conduct town business safely, along with a ballot box on the side of the building.

As a financial adviser by trade, Bennett said trying to keep taxes down is one of his biggest concerns. In looking at the 2008 to 2013 Town Warrants, years when Bennett was not a selectman, taxes increased by 37% over the period, he said.

"That puts the brakes on a lot of things in town," he said. "I do look at the numbers and I create spreadsheets … to show where all the money is going."

In the last six years since he has been selectman, the budget has gone up 12%. "This year our tax budget is going down," Bennett added.

Freedom's seven-member Budget Committee, he said, with four members who are not selectmen, ensures selectmen can be overruled. "Everything is put on the warrant by a vote," he said. The committee also meets quarterly and reviews expenditures.

Bennett said many small towns miss income streams that are generated by doing work themselves, such as in public works, trash pickup or having a municipal fire department.

"We get to control the price and the quality," he said.

Freedom has its own Public Works Department, while some towns contract out services such as roadwork and plowing. The town also has its own municipal packer truck to collect garbage, which it has been leasing to the neighboring town of Montville. Also, the Freedom Fire Department provides services for towns that do not have their own department, such as Knox.

The town of Freedom is growing, he said, with a lot of activity in terms of building permits. Things are changing a little bit at a time, with improvements happening incrementally.

"I enjoy doing the work, and I hope I am doing a good job" he said.

April Turner

April Turner, a Mount View and University of Maine graduate, community activist, social worker, and former candidate for the Maine House of Representatives, said she still desires to serve her community.

Her first taste of community volunteerism was in the '90s, when she served on the Freedom Recreational Committee. More recently, Turner said, she has volunteered at food pantries, and currently volunteers at the Jackson Food Pantry.

Turner is married and has five children, including two biological sons, one adopted son and one fostered son. She is also raising the daughter of a family member, and said she considers her "ours."

They have lived in Freedom for the last seven years and prior to that, they lived in neighboring Montville.

She would like to give a voice to people who feel their voices are not heard in town. When people ask for services they need from the town, they should not feel ashamed, she said, whether it be to ask help to weatherize their home, or for general assistance because someone has lost their job.

“Sometimes when people make these requests,” she said, “they feel they should not have done it. I want to help with that.”

Speaking on the current situation in Freedom, Turner said, because of the pandemic, with many people working at home, they are not registering as many cars. This has created a deficit from the lack of excise tax revenue, she said.

“I don’t want to see taxes going up,” she said. “We need to find other ways without adding to our budget.”

Also evident now, with so many people working from home, is the need for better broadband internet service, she added.

Working from home remotely, Turner uses video conferencing to meet with her clients, and said, “The internet really takes a hit with the inability to connect.”

On this snowy day, Turner said, she could not serve three of her clients because of connectivity issues. Partnering with other towns to work on expanding broadband, she believes, would increase bargaining power with internet service providers.

Nathan McCann

Nathan McCann said he is excited about running for selectman in Freedom, but added that he might become frustrated, being an idealist.

Since March 2019, McCann has attended almost every selectmen's meeting, chronicling town business in his Freedom Town News column for The Republican Journal.

He said he became interested in running for the selectman's seat after the trash sticker price in town doubled. He remembers that only two residents attended that meeting, and both voiced concern about the increase.

The Budget Committee was in favor of the raise, and selectmen acted "unilaterally" to increase the price, he said.

To rationalize the increase, one of the selectman said it was "in lieu" of raising taxes, McCann added. "That really upset me."

While he believes the current selectmen are good administrators and genuinely care about the town, McCann said, they "don't have the same priorities as people who are looking towards the future, because of their ages."

McCann said he joined the Planning Board a couple of years ago because he was against bringing 5G technology for broadband cellular networks to town. He now sees 5G and other technological innovations as inevitable.

The driving force behind his interest in becoming a selectman, he said, is concern for the future of the town.

McCann is married and has six children. "I have a lot going on in my life," he said. "I'm doing it for the future of our town, and the future of our country. I can't justify at least not trying."

Speaking about the pandemic, McCann said he believes the governor's mask wearing mandate is equivalent to forcing a medical procedure on citizens of the state.

"I would love to see a declaration," he said, (by selectmen) "that no citizen of the town is forced into a medical procedure."

Like abortion, which he believes is "totally wrong," it should not be legislated, because it is a medical procedure, and should be left up to the individual.

"I don't wear a mask," he said. "If I have to wear a mask (to serve as selectman), I won't serve."

McCann said he did wear a mask for the first few months until the governor started making mandates. He is not in favor of government overreach and said he is "definitely not" getting a COVID-19 vaccination.

"I don't begrudge anyone who wants to wear a mask," he said, but added he feels it is a "control mechanism."

"There is an agenda being pushed," McCann said. "People are putting masks on babies. That's child abuse."

While McCann knows his views may be controversial, he makes no excuses and bases his views on his religion.

"I am not ashamed of any of my beliefs," he said. "I follow the Bible."

As selectman, McCann said he would like to see taxes go down by cutting extraneous spending from the budget. He also said he felt he could represent anyone, even if they do not live by the Bible.

What is most important, McCann said, is supreme liberty, and personal responsibility.

“Everyone has the right to believe in what they want,” he said. “I give everyone the same respect.”