2017-01-19 / Front Page

Resigning councilor to serve on new fire committee

By Anthony Aloisio
Staff Writer

Norman Belanger has been nominated by the mayor to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Ward 6 Councilor Rick Laverriere. (Courtesy photo) Norman Belanger has been nominated by the mayor to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Ward 6 Councilor Rick Laverriere. (Courtesy photo) BIDDEFORD – Ward 6 Councilor Rick Laverriere has resigned from his office, and Mayor Alan Casavant has nominated resident Norman Belanger to fill the council vacancy. The council was set to vote on whether to approve Belanger’s nomination at its meeting Tuesday, Jan. 17, after the Courier’s deadline.

Laverriere told the Courier that his resignation was a “personal family decision,” and declined to comment further. On reports that he would be going out of state, to Florida, he also declined to comment, and said it was “just a rumor.”

Laverriere has also been appointed by the mayor to serve on the newly created Fire Advisory Committee, for a term ending in 2019. He said that before this council term, he had served on the fire commission that the committee has replaced. Laverriere said he will serve on the committee if the appointment is approved, which is scheduled for the Jan. 17 council meeting, after the Courier’s deadline.

Laverriere has a long history on the city council. He served for eight years before 2013, he said, before being off the council from 2013 to 2015. The current term has made about nine years of service for him. This term ends at the end of 2017, and so the councilor that replaces Laverriere will serve for about 10 months, Casavant said.

“I wish him well,” Laverriere said of Belanger. “I think he’s going to do a good job. He seems to be a pretty decent guy.”

Casavant said that since receiving Laverriere’s resignation, which was Thursday, Jan. 12, according to Laverriere, Casavant spoke with several people before selecting Belanger.

“Looking at a specific skill set, I thought (Belanger) would best represent the ward, and be able to fit in nicely with the council as it exists,” Casavant said.

Casavant has the power to nominate a replacement councilor because of the timing, according to city charter provision Article III, section 4. According to charter, a council vacancy occurring more than 180 days after regular council elections is filled by nomination of the mayor and confirmation by the council. Vacancies occurring earlier require a special election. Casavant is familiar with the process, he said, because this appointment is the third he’s done in his five years as mayor.

Casavant cited Belanger’s intelligence and career success as primary reasons for his selection.

“Norm is a lawyer,” he said. “In terms of understanding law, I thought that would be a valuable commodity to have on a regular basis. I don’t know him that well. When I started teaching, he was in high school, and I knew he was extremely smart.”

Casavant also said it was important that a new councilor be open-minded, and somebody that he could work with.

“I’ve learned over the years that when you come in with a pre-conceived condition, it’s usually wrong,” he said.

When Laverriere ran for the council seat in 2015, he was opposed by Debbie Lauzon. Casavant said that Lauzon was not among the people he contacted.

“I wanted someone that wouldn’t be part of the whole controversy that went through a year ago,” Casavant said, referring to a lawsuit filed by Matt Lauzon, son of Debbie Lauzon, which has the city as a defendant for civil claims relating to alleged sexual abuse by Biddeford police officers. “I just didn’t think that that would be a good mix, because I suspect that lawsuit will be coming to fruition sometime.”

Belanger said when the mayor asked him to serve, it was a “complete surprise.” When he took the mayor’s call, he said, he was expecting to be asked about an appointment to a committee. He said Casavant has asked him to serve on committees in the past. Belanger served on the Biddeford Environmental Board when it first came together, which was in 2003, according to Chief Operating Officer Brian Phinney, the staff member of the board. Other than that Belanger has not served any of the municipal entities, he said.

Belanger was born in Biddeford and graduated from Biddeford High School in 1975. He left the city for eight years to go to Harvard College and then Harvard Law School, and returned to the city in 1990. He has lived in Biddeford since then, and he practices law at his firm, Van Meer & Belanger, which is based in Portland.

Looking to the future, Belanger said he has no particular plans for his service as councilor, and that he thinks the city is “on a good path of improvement.”

“Having grown up here, this is my town, I love Biddeford,” Belanger said. “It just is a way for me to give back. I come with no agenda, I’m just really looking to see if I can be of some help to the city.”

Contact Staff Writer Anthony Aloisio at news@inthecourier.com.

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