Woodland elects new select board member amid town government dysfunction

3 months ago

WOODLAND, Maine – Woodland residents elected a new select board member Monday hoping to end a recent period of dysfunctional town government.

Voters elected resident Matthew Cole to fill the remaining term of Harold Tardy, the former board chairperson who resigned in September. Tardy was elected to a three-year term in March but stepped down due to health concerns.

Cole received 205 votes while another resident, Lisa Milliard, received 116 votes. Cole’s term will end in March 2026.

Cole’s election follows weeks of conflict between board members Kathy Ouellette and Thomas Drew that has halted town government. Last month, Drew did not show up to the select board’s November meeting for unspecified reasons, prompting its cancellation. Drew’s absence also canceled the board’s September meeting. He and Ouellette had disagreed over how to properly reschedule their Sept. 19 meeting.

Drew’s term will end in March 2024, while Ouellette’s term ends in March 2025.

Cole said he wants to help the town establish more transparency between elected officials and residents and make the town’s government more functional.

“Enough is enough with the fighting and bickering. I’m ready to work with Kathy and Tom on what needs to be done. Let’s move this town forward,” Cole said.

A Washburn native, Cole lives in Woodland with his wife, Joanna Cole, and their children attend Woodland Consolidated School. He teaches in the building construction program at Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle and volunteers for several local organizations, including the Loring Air Museum in Limestone and Washburn Boy Scout Troop 177.

Ouellette called Cole a “well-rounded” and “respected” community member who is well versed on town issues from attending most select board meetings through the years.

“I think things will be more cohesive with a full board,” Ouellette said. “We need to get back to business for the town.”

Drew said he did not attend the scheduled November board meeting because he disagreed with opening up meetings to what he considered “civil matters,” including complaints from residents about board members.

He said the current climate within town government has created an unhealthy environment within the town, leading to safety concerns for employees and distrust among residents. He called for what he sees as a return to normal town business.

“I would like to think that having a full board would favor the town’s ability to move forward,” Drew said. 

This story was updated to include comments from Cole, Ouellette and Drew.