Meet Your House District 14 Candidates

Stephen Coston and Lynne Williams both hope to head to the state legislature

Maine State House candidates for House District 14 (Bar Harbor, Cranberry Isles, Lamoine, and Mount Desert) Steve Coston and Lynne Williams both kindly consented to an interview, and we are so grateful. At the bottom of the article are links to find out more about them, but also a link to a debate between the two which is scheduled for Tuesday, October 4 at 7 p.m..


Stephen Coston

First things first, Stephen, what happens if you win?

I’m a first-time candidate for this office, so my first task will be learning how to navigate Augusta’s traffic circles. Upon making it to the physical destination, I’m confident I’ll have plenty more to learn as well.

If someone reading this has never met you in person, what would you tell them about yourself, how you grew up, and your views of government?

I am from Maine, which may be one reason that I’m a very pragmatic individual.  Pragmatic is defined as “dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.”

I think one would be hard pressed to come up with a better description of my fundamental approach to life than that. I view government through a lens of skepticism—I do not believe that government is generally capable of living up to its grandiose promises, and I think the historical record very plainly demonstrates as much (for example, look at a historical chart of inflation by category—all the categories where the government spends and interferes the most, ostensibly to keep costs down, are the very same categories that have consistently seen the greatest increases in cost: healthcare, education, food, etc.).  For this reason, any time I am charged with making a decision for my community, I am particularly careful to consider incentives, feedback, potential unintended consequences (“the road to hell is paved with good intentions”), possible cognitive biases at play, and empirical results of past government initiatives. This allows me to recognize when poor policy is advancing through being defined by a hoped—for positive outcome—which summarizes what is probably government’s single biggest failure in effective transparency. For example, calling a massive government spending bill the “inflation reduction act” does not mean the policy will do anything to reduce inflation; in fact, as government spending is both logically and empirically the foremost driver of inflation, the actual result of the “inflation reduction act” will be precisely the opposite of its stated intent. Some politicians do this sort of thing on purpose, while many more simply fail to recognize it; I am extremely intent on not falling into either one of those two categories.

What do you think are the top three concerns for Hancock County’s future?

People need opportunities. We all know Maine is the oldest state in the Union. We don’t give our young people a reason to stay. There is very limited opportunity, and our high taxes (Maine has the 10th highest state and local tax burden in the USA per the Tax Foundation) and stringent policies on small business are doing a great deal to curtail what opportunity does exist. We need to apply some common sense to the situation and be more competitive so that our residents can prosper right here. With more opportunity will come better results in a myriad of categories, from health to happiness to everything else that really matters.

What would you do about those three issues if you’re elected?

I would seek to reduce income taxes and reduce regulation on small businesses. I would seek to get state government out of the business of subsidizing certain activities, which always must occur at the expense of other activities, no matter how obfuscated the economic skew may be. There is no such thing as government creation of resources—government cannot create, it can only reallocate. For example, those checks, the “free money” the state sent you in an effort to put a Band-Aid over other poor policy choices have been more than neutralized by inflation and a general decline in economic growth and stability.  In the end, because of what were very obviously lousy policy choices made by your elected representatives, you wound up paying thousands of dollars for $850—a pretty terrible deal, needless to say. Energy subsidies are another chief area of concern where both the state and the federal government have been messing things up for years and are presently on the cusp of compounding these mess ups with many additional mess ups.

What would you do about those three issues if you aren’t elected?

I will continue to be an active member of my community and continue to develop my business, which provides employment to around 100 people as well as free housing for 33 people, many of them local year-round residents. Regardless of whether I hold public office or not, I believe my contributions through my personal initiatives and my business are the greatest contributions I can make.

What do you think Maine’s biggest challenges are?

I think Hancock County’s challenges are Maine’s challenges. 

Since we’re a publication focused mostly on Bar Harbor, what would you say Bar Harbor’s biggest challenges and opportunities are? Do those feel similar or dissimilar to the rest of Hancock County and Maine?

I think Bar Harbor has some unique challenges, but those unique challenges are generally the purview of the Town Council. When I served on the Town Council I was a strong advocate for addressing zoning issues, such as density/height/dwelling size restrictions, in order to allow more affordable housing opportunities. I will continue to advocate for such changes in whatever capacity I can. I believe small businesses play a huge role in what makes Bar Harbor so special and I will do all I can to maintain an environment conducive to the success of small businesses. It is quite sad that our small businesses have really been dragged through the mud over the past several years, and we need to stop that.

Why do you first run for office? What inspired you to do that and what inspires you to run again?

I ran for Bar Harbor Town Council about five years ago because I felt I could have a positive impact on my community, and someone whose opinion I respect suggested that that’s how I ought to do it. I am running for District 14 for precisely the same reason.

Bonus Question: You can tell our readers anything about anything if you want to. Please feel free to share whatever you want to that might help our readers understand who you are as a person and your goals in public service or just life.

My primary goal is to go to bed a little wiser than when I woke up. I am very interested in learning about most anything, and I enjoy taking the things I learn and employing them in constructive ways. I will debate anything with anyone and I will do so in a civil manner with the understanding that just because two people disagree does not mean they ought to be enemies (“Both sides lost, and they lost because they became sides.” -Thomas Sowell). I love to see people succeed, and my primary focus in government is to create and maintain an environment conducive to success.


Office currently running for: State House, District 14

Previous experience in government: Bar Harbor Town Council

Current occupation: Financial Advisor, Owner/Co-Owner of eight hotels/motels/B&Bs

Political party: Republican

Community/volunteer involvements: Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association, Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, Bar Harbor Parking Solutions Task Force, Husson University Board of Visitors

Education: Husson University, Business/Financial Management, co-valedictorian of my graduating class

Favorite song: The Bar Harbor Town Band, especially if I have an ice cream cone to go along with it

Favorite book: The Analects of Confucius

Favorite thing to show off about Hancock County and/or Bar Harbor: I think Bar Harbor is the best place on Earth, and I am quite literally in the business of showing it off. I love very nearly everything about Bar Harbor and I love seeing how happy this place makes people feel.

Favorite thing to binge: Rosalie’s Pizza

The worst part about being in public office: No matter what you do, you’re going to disappoint someone in some way. 

The best part about being in public office: I feel very good about the motivation behind my commitment to public service. I’ve never had any personal political aspirations–I am driven in this domain simply by a sense of civic responsibility, and I feel very good about that. 

For more information about Stephen click here.


Lynne Williams

Lynne, thank you for answering these questions. Let’s start with this: what happens if you win?

I will be entering my second term in the State House and will continue the work I started in the current term. That includes working on improving public transportation throughout the state, particularly in rural communities; clarifying and improving medical marijuana rules and laws; and passing statutes that protect our bays and waters from threats, such as the highly dangerous and inappropriate proposal to place a massive salmon farm in Frenchman Bay.

If someone reading this has never met you in person, what would you tell them about yourself, how you grew up, and your views of government?

I was raised in Brooklyn, NY, and my parents were very interested in politics, both local and national. I was encouraged to volunteer, and for a year I volunteered in the neighborhood office of my Member of Congress, Elizabeth Holtzman. Since that time I’ve worked on numerous campaigns, from San Francisco Board of Supervisor to President of the U.S. My view of government is that while government officials can, and do, sometimes stray from their roles, there are great possibilities for what government can do for the people. I have always felt that it is very important to listen to the people, those in our communities, and take our lead from them, rather than from the rich and powerful, who use their money to control rather than assist, and to threaten rather than listen, and act accordingly.

What do you think are the top three concerns for Hancock County’s future?

One of the top concerns is the lack of affordable housing. In general, home prices are increasing at a rate that many folks in Hancock County cannot afford. Likewise, the proliferation of seasonal, weekly, or even daily, rentals take much needed housing from those who work in Hancock County. While winter rentals are available, when May comes the renter will have to seek out a seasonal rental and that unit is often very far from their place of employment. Sometimes it’s even a tent in a campground. While the legislature passed legislation this last session that will hopefully encourage Towns to closely review, and perhaps amend, their zoning ordinances, in order to allow more units to be built on current single family lots. But more needs to be done to allow smaller homes and larger multi-unit buildings, as well as loosen up on setbacks and other land use rules.

A second concern is public transportation. As noted above, more workers in Hancock County are forced to travel longer distances to get to work because the housing market is extremely tight in the areas where many of the jobs are. As a member of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, and a committed user of public transportation, I have had conversations with Downeast Transportation, transportation activists and business owners about ways that we can facilitate transporting those working in Hancock County to their places of employment, and these conversations will be continuing.

A third concern in Hancock County is waterfront, and in the water, development. As noted above, Frenchman Bay communities faced a huge threat this year from a proposed commercial in-water salmon farm. This would not only interfere with lobstering, but would put the Bay at risk of impacts that might be impossible to remediate. Hancock County waters are already threatened by the recent failure of Cooke Aquaculture to follow rules and to wait to report massive deaths of salmon, to the DEP, for more than a week after such deaths occurred, and to provide a credible reason that such deaths occurred. We definitely need to tighten up our rules surrounding aquaculture, not just in Hancock County but among the other coastal counties.

What would you do about those three issues if you’re elected?

Regarding water protection: I will be introducing legislation that will address the specific issues that I raise here. With respect to public transportation, I hopefully will be re-appointed to the Transportation Committee and will continue my work on public transportation, including statewide rail and community-based bus systems. And on the issue of affordable housing, I intend to follow legislative initiatives that I believe will give communities incentives to address the issue, and will assist the four communities in my district to participate in any housing incentive programs for which they are eligible.

What would you do about those three issues if you aren’t elected?

Before I was elected, I lobbied on many of the same issues that I mention here and if I was not re-elected I would definitely not stop working on these issues. My venue and my actions would simply become that of a private citizen.

What do you think Maine’s biggest challenges are?

In my opinion, Maine’s biggest challenge is retaining young people by creating jobs that are not only suitable to their training and experience, but also provide the possibilities of long-term achievement in the industry of their choice and/or the training and experience necessary to enable them to open their own businesses in the future. Another of Maine’s big challenges is addressing the housing crisis, per my discussion above regarding affordable housing. In addition, energy prices in Maine are rising, for both home heating oil and gasoline and for many Mainers, particularly those in rural communities who must drive large distances, and those who use home heating oil, the rising prices could have huge impacts that the State will need to address. Lastly, working to support our new immigrants from many different countries is challenging. The towns and cities that are welcoming these folks, supplying housing and finding them work are doing a wonderful job. However, as a State we need to be careful that most of that work is not laid on just a few towns and cities and spread out the needs, and the support, throughout the State.

What inspired you to do that and what inspires you to run again?

I ran for office for the first time in 2004, I believe, when I ran for the State House as a Green, and since then I ran a few other times. As I noted earlier, I have always been interested in politics and hoped to be able to serve. In 2020 I was elected to the Maine House, and loved the last two years, despite the disruptive nature of COVID and the impacts it had on all of us in the Legislature. For the entire first year of the term we met only via Zoom and even though the second year was partially in person, committee meetings mostly remained on Zoom. I look forward to being re-elected in November and being able to begin what will be my first “normal” term in the Maine House.

Bonus Question: You can tell our readers anything about anything if you want to. Please feel free to share whatever you want to that might help our readers understand who you are as a person and your goals in public service or just life.

Fun Fact! My son, Brendan Williams, is following in my footsteps, which I am so excited about. He is currently running for South Portland City Council and he just might win his first race, unlike me!


Office currently running for: Re-election as State Rep. for House District 14 (Bar Harbor, Cranberry Isles, Lamoine, and Mount Desert)

Previous experience in government: Current State Representative since 2020. Worked for the State of Maine from 2002-2005 and for the City and County of San Francisco for three years in the eighties.

Current occupation: Attorney, seasonal bookstore owner.

Political party: Democratic Party

Community/volunteer involvements: Current Member, Harbor Committee of Bar Harbor, past Chair; Former Member, Bar Harbor Planning Board; Former Member, Bar Harbor Conservation Committee. Former Member, Board of Trustees, Riley School, Rockport, Maine (2016 – 2019); Member, Gala Fundraising Committee, Friends of Acadia (intermittently since 2005).

Education: B.A. in Psychology, M.A. in Experimental Psychology, Ph.D. in Social Psychology,  J.D. in Law.

Favorite song: “Ghost of Tom Joad,” Bruce Springsteen

Favorite book: Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics by Stephen Greenblatt

Favorite thing to show off about Hancock County and/or Bar Harbor: the Harbor, the working boats and the pleasure boats.

Favorite thing to binge: ice cream.

The worst part about being in public office: High expectations are frustrating if I can’t meet them.

The best part about being in public office: High expectations make it possible for me to achieve some needed change.

For more information about Lynne, click here.


The League of Women Voters and Mount Desert Islander is sponsoring a debate for Stephen Coston and Lynne Williams on October 4. It will be moderated by the Mount Desert Islander’s Managing Editor Faith DeAmbrose. The link is here.

Or to livestream on Facebook instead.

Tonight there is a debate between Nicole Grohoski and Brian Langley at 5:30 p.m. That will be moderated by Bar Harbor Town Councilor and Islander political columnist, Jill Goldthwait. Grohoski and Langley are vying for state senate seat for Senate District 7, which covers Bar Harbor and much of Hancock County.

Or to livestream on Facebook

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