Political Profile Kevin Freeman

Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 6:59 PM EDT
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AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine (WAGM) - We continue our Political Profile series with Maine State House District 5 which features Incumbent Republican Joseph Underwood and Democrat Kevin Freeman. WAGM, with the Aroostook Partnership, interviewed the candidates for the local races. Each candidate had 5 minutes to answer the same 3 questions. Those questions were provided ahead of time. The interviews were all done through Zoom. We now have Democratic challenger Kevin Freeman.

Kelly O’Mara, NewsSource 8:What are your top three priorities if elected, in the coming legislative session?

Kevin Freeman, Democratic Candidate Maine State House District 5: You know district 5 is primarily Presque Isle. It’s an area that I’m very, very familiar with, grew up here all my life, went to school here. And the priorities really right now are no different probably a few years ago. It’s all about creating an economy and growing an economy here in Aroostook County. Trying to deal with the issues that face us everyday in terms of job development. And hand in hand with that goes trying to find places for people to live and also to work as well. Energy, of course, is a big topic up here too and stuff. And not only this winter coming, but the winters that follow. And we’re trying to get a sustainable way to afford to live up here in the wintertime. That’s important also so, those are two of the top three things for me and then I think too, just trying to represent the people up here in Augusta, who are lost sometimes in the shuffle and only have really 8 representatives here in Aroostook County. I think I saw the other day, Portland has 8 just in one city. So, representing the people up here and trying to be a voice down there is very, very important. So those are my goals as a first term person and trying to learn things in Augusta. Those are the top few things that I’m going to try to get started with.

Jason Parent, Aroostook Partnership: We have about three minutes of your time remaining for the next two questions and I’m going to ask the next one now Kevin and that’s what are your thoughts on population growth, or perhaps other strategies, to address our qualified employee shortages in the region?

Kevin Freeman, Democratic Candidate Maine State House District 5: I think that there’s something like 53% of the people that are eligible that are 16 and up for working that are currently working and that’s an unacceptably low number, however, it’s skewed a little bit by our aging population, a lot of people near retirement age up here. I think during Covid a lot of people chose early retirement and they’re still living up here so they’re in that statistic right now and if we’re going to be able to retain and attract workers up here I think we have an excellent quality of life, we have excellent recreational activities, we have a lot of wide open spaces that people find advantageous to move from other states or other areas of Maine to Aroostook County. And I think we’ve been some what successful with doing that as a region. But again, we still have to find a way to get that mouth piece out there and let people know what we have, what we have to offer and find a place for them to live, which again, that’s that housing thing again. So, we’ve work on that very hard here in the city, as my time here on city council has been the last 6 years, the last three years in particular, this has been the drum beat, trying to develop housing and all levels of housing, not just levels for workforce people, but also LLI section 8 housing, all of those things are part of that puzzle and maybe I could get that down to Augusta and find ways for the state people to reach out and get involved with people here in Aroostook County to try to develop housing and try to have a place for our folks to move to. This is a great way of life up here, but we just have to let people know where they are and what the opportunities are here.

Kelly O’Mara, NewsSource 8: And you have about a minute left for your third question, which is Aroostook County’s workforce participation rate continues to decline and is currently at 54% for residents 16 and older. What do you feel the barriers are to increasing this important metric and what are your ideas to reverse this trend?

Kevin Freeman, Democratic Candidate Maine State House District 5: This is sort of just what I just answered, right, that the ways to reverse this trend is to try to find ways to attract people to live up here and work here. We’ve got plenty of job opportunities here. On the industrial park alone, we have nearly 200 jobs right now and the people that interview that want to come on up here, they just would like to work, but they don’t have any way to transition, they don’t have, the apartments aren’t here, the transitional housing really isn’t here for them. You know, they may not be in a position to purchase a home right away, they want to try it out first and those opportunities aren’t here right now for them to move into. So, it’s part of that housing thing again.