News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 14, 2019
Three-way selectmen’s race highlights Penobscot elections
School board race unopposed

by Monique Labbe

With longtime Selectman Paul Bowen not seeking reelection this year, an open seat on the Penobscot Board of Selectmen will be filled by a new face regardless of who is elected.

The race is an all-female affair, with Sylvia Tapley, Toni Staples and Janine Kimball vying for the position.

James Goodman is running uncontested for his seat on the Penobscot School Board, one he has held for several years. One open seat has been left on the school board by Fred Briehl, who is not seeking reelection. Ed DeVito has announced he is running as a write-in candidate for the position, as no one officially took out nomination papers.

Janine Kimball
Three-year selectman term

Janine Kimball is a newcomer to the town of Penobscot, who put her name into the selectmen’s race after hearing that Paul Bowen would not be running for reelection.

“When I heard that, I thought it would be good to do some civic duty,” she said.

Kimball moved to Penobscot two years ago from Wytopitlock, a small community located between Houlton and Lincoln. She is a member of the Penobscot Fire Department with her husband and fire chief Scott Ferden, and has been working in the kitchen at Northern Bay Market for just over a year.

“I love this town,” said Kimball. “I’m not here to change it, I like it just the way it is.”

Kimball said that working at Northern Bay Market and meeting the people in the community played an important role in wanting to run for the board of selectmen. She said that everyone she has met has welcomed her to town and has been friendly since she moved in.

The idea of having a woman on the board of selectmen is something Kimball said would be “great for the community,” and is something residents can be excited about.

One thing Kimball said needs to be addressed is climate change in the future, as flooding and other infrastructure issues have become more common in recent years.

“I think we really need to take a look at how to deal with the effect of higher flood levels and other things affected by the climate,” said Kimball.

Kimball said that even though she is not a Penobscot resident by birth, she understands how small towns, and the people in them, operate.

“I know small towns in Maine, I’m from one,” she said.

Editor’s note: Kimball declined to have her photo taken for the story.

Toni Staples
Three-year selectman term

Toni Staples has lived in Penobscot for the past 25 years, but she knows the area well, having grown up down the road in Brooksville.

Staples has been involved in the community both at the school and town hall, where she helped out with Girl Scout troops, concession stands at sporting events, and counting ballots during election days. That sense of helping the community gave her the inspiration to run for the seat on the board of selectmen this year.

“My kids are all grown, I have an empty nest, and I thought it would be interesting to be a part of it,” said Staples.

Staples works as a baker at both Northern Bay Market and George Stevens Academy, and has gotten to know people in the community through her interactions at both establishments.

“This is a really close town. People take care of each other here. I have one woman who asks me to call her during storms just to make sure her phone is still working. Things like that, we help each other out,” she said.

Staples is excited about the idea of a woman joining the board of selectmen.

“I think a woman might be able to bring new perspective,” she said. “We tend to look at things differently than men. It would be an asset.”

One of the biggest things Staples said is important to the future of the town is internet and phone service, which has been a heavy topic in Penobscot over the last year and also on the warrant for town meeting in March.

“That’s a big concern I know people are talking about, and it’s something we really need to find a solution to,” she said.

Sylvia Tapley
Three-year selectman term

Sylvia Tapley was born and raised in Penobscot, and with the exception of a few decades living “away” in southern Maine, has always called the town home.

When she heard Paul Bowen was retiring as a selectman, Tapley decided to put her name into the race.

“I have always considered it a privilege to serve the town, and I had the opportunity to run,” said Tapley.

Tapley has served as the president and a member of the Penobscot Historical Society, has been involved with the People’s Forum of Penobscot since its inception and has been on the appeals committee and the newly formed comprehensive planning committee.

“Those types of things are very community oriented, and that’s what you have to be when you serve your town,” she said.

Tapley, who was an educator for over 30 years, has also been involved at the Penobscot Community School creating a book of interviews the students have done with the older generation in town. That project, she said, has been a great way to bring the school and general populations together.

If elected, Tapley said it would be important to focus on the center of town, where the former Penobscot nursing home, and a handful of homes, sit vacant and in various levels of decay.

“I would also like to see the town do more to welcome new people into the community,” said Tapley. “We could certainly do more to make them feel like a part of the town.”

Tapley said that whether she is elected or not, she is excited about the fact that a woman will serve on the board for the first time in Penobscot history.

“I think Penobscot is on the brink of a lot of changes, a lot of good changes, and it’s exciting to be a part of that, regardless,” she said.

Toni Staples

Toni Staples.

Photo by Monique Labbe
Sylvia Tapley

Sylvia Tapley.

Photo by Monique Labbe