By: Alyson Peabody, Editor-in-Chief
Professor Michael Shaughnessy has taught sculpture, design and drawing at USM for 32 years. He served as a Department Chair for 10 years and has served on the Faculty Senate. During his time on the Faculty Senate, he created the first ever degree in Art and Entrepreneurship.
Now, artist, sculptor, and entrepreneur, Michael Shaughnessy, is running for Mayor of Westbrook.
“We must be willing to think big and know that small places can have major effects,” he said. “With a strong team effort within the city and larger community, Westbrook can be a place where people are drawn to, find great joy in and that establishes new precedents – leading rather than following.”
Three of Shaughnessy’s broad initiatives are grounded in community, sustainability and resource distribution.
1. “Our people, communities, and neighborhoods need stronger voices within city government. Everything we do should have our sense of community as a root concern. We can and must set out to build, strengthen and give greater voice to and connection within our neighborhoods. In doing this and by having a stronger connection between each other neighborhoods are safer, more influential, more joyful and have greater quality of life.”
2. “In this age a sustainability initiative is not an option — it is a requirement. We can, with innovation, set a standard for sustainability and environmental stewardship. We owe this to future generations. We can do this through such things as solar initiatives; alternative transportation and walkability initiatives; strengthening our parks and waterways; promoting sustainable local food production; and seeking new and more varied housing options.”
3. “We must seek new ways to build regional partnerships, share resources and engage more fully with economies of scale. As we seek ways to reduce costs we must learn to share and collaborate more fully with our neighbor communities. We need to bring groups together to find ways that collectively we can build capacities and distribute costs. If not, we will simply be satisfied with the constant spiral of raising rates and cutting deeper into our services.”
Shaughnessy was first encouraged to run for mayor in 2016. He had been living in Westbrook for 18 months, engaging with projects in and around the city for years. Despite losing the running by one percent, his perseverance never wavered. He has served on the Discover Downtown Westbrook Design Committee, Westbrook Arts and Culture and Westbrook Recreation and Conservation Commission. He was influential in the street painting project in Riverbank Park.
Shaughnessy is a founder of the Friends of the Presumpscot River (FOPR) and has been board president for over ten years. FOPR is the lead organization for the restoration of the Presumpscot River. They are involved in multi-year efforts to implement river upgrades, educational programs, fish passage, and dam removals.
“After many years of negotiations, the dams at Saccarappa Falls are being removed and fish passage gained,” he said.
Shaughnessy said that his commitment to Westbrook will not waver, regardless of the election’s outcome.
“As an environmentalist, I value our connection to the natural world,” he said. “As a teacher, I seek to build in people the skills and confidence to pursue individual visions. As a father, husband, faculty member, organizational leader and citizen I have learned well, and will bring to the position of Mayor the understanding that we are stronger when we work collaboratively…”
Shaughnessy’s passion for art and entrepreneurial endeavors started in Kansas City, where he grew up. His father was an architect and his mother was an entrepreneur who started Olde Theater Architectural Salvage Company. Shaughnessy’s mother was the first female owner of any architectural salvage company in the country.
“It was a place that was based in seeing the possibility of things others have traditionally discarded,” he said. “It gave me a firm understanding and belief in the importance of historic preservation.”
His parents were strong community activists. They were formative in building Kansas City’s neighborhoods. His father served as a city councilman and his mother was instrumental in saving the Union Station.
Shaughnessy attended mostly Catholic Schools through high school and went on to study Art at the University of Missouri in Kansas City and Ohio University. He received a BA in Art and then spent two years at Ohio University in Athens where he received an MFA.
After returning to Kansas City, he received a studio grant at MoMA PS1 in New York City, one of the oldest and largest nonprofit contemporary art institutions in the United States.
Shaughnessy lived in Gorham, Windham, and Portland before moving to Westbrook. While living in Windham, Shaughnessy served on the Windham Town Council for three years.
“I worked on establishing design guidelines. I was part of a broad based multi-year effort to rezone the town with new commercial and residential districts and ordinances, consolidated polling locations, engaged in budget and personnel decisions, and moved the municipal elections to November,” he said.
Shaughnessy currently lives in a four-generation household in Westbrook with his wife Malory Otteson Shaughnessy. They’ve raised four sons and have three grandchildren. Their house is “fondly known as the Conant Homestead in honor of Ellie Conant and the family that had long lived there prior to us.” Shaughnessy’s son, Tulleigh, is re-engaging its historic use as a farm. His hope is to create a “strong sense of community involvement” and will host “demonstration gardens and public events.”
Michael Shaughnessy will appear on the ballot Tuesday November 5 alongside Michael T. Foley, Michael (Mike) Sanphy and Philip D. Spiller, Jr. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
All voters will vote at the Westbrook Community Center Gym (426 Bridge Street).