News Feature

Originally published in Castine Patriot, February 21, 2019
Castine residents weigh in on town manager needs

David Barrett leads the discussion

David Barrett of the Maine Municipal Association explains the timeline for the town manager search in Castine at a public hearing on February 19.

Photo by Monique Labbe Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Monique Labbe

The Castine Board of Selectmen and Maine Municipal Association representative David Barrett met with citizens of Castine on February 19 to discuss their needs and wants in the next town manager.

Current town manager Jimmy Goodson will be retiring later this year.

The meeting marked the official kickoff to the town manager search, and from knowledge of historical towns to transparency, the seven citizens in attendance urged the board to leave no stone unturned while looking for Goodson’s replacement.

“Basically, we need someone who can walk on water, and if they can’t walk on water, they need to be a really strong swimmer,” said Bobby Vagt, one of the residents at the meeting.

Vagt also asked the selectmen whether citizens will be able to participate in the interview process, which will take place in April. Selectman Gordon MacArthur explained that at this time, the plan is to include the three board members and town hall staff members Karen Motycka and Sue Macomber in the process, so that the interviews do not turn into a “town meeting situation.”

“If we involve people in the community, or even go to the other boards for their participation, it has the issue of becoming too much,” he added.

Motycka explained that there are about a dozen boards in town; so, even adding just one person from each board to the interview committee would make it almost 20 people. The amount of people on a typical interview committee is about five.

Vagt said he understood where the board was coming from, but urged them to consider involving the public “at some point,” whether in an informal question and answer session, a meet and greet, or some way to meet the potential candidates after the first or second rounds of interviews.

Peter Cooperdock, a member of the Castine Historical Preservation Committee, said it would be a point of interest for the next town manager to have some experience with historical preservation in towns, as Castine has a focus on its historical buildings and downtown. He also noted that it would be important for the individual to have an interest in trail management and project management, to create better hiking and walking trails within the community and develop some additional ecotourism.

Patrick Haugen mentioned that it would be important to have someone with experience in water and wastewater management, and the infrastructure that is needed to continue providing a sufficient source of drinking water to homes in the community.

Selectman Colin Powell asked the residents what their thoughts were in terms of how much experience the next town manager should have in town government. It was the consensus that whoever comes in should have multiple years not only in town government but as a town manager.

Powell agreed, saying that “while we are a small town and it could seem inviting for someone brand new to come in, there is a lot going on in this small town, so I think experience is important.”

Other traits, both professional and personal, thrown into the conversation were a background in planning, ability to engage with a variety of individuals from all walks of life, the ability to execute policy, awareness of the goals of the town, and good communication skills.

Advertisement for the position will begin this Friday, and run for about four weeks, according to Barrett. The board will reconvene for an executive session, scheduled for March 25, to begin going over the resumes of potential candidates and will identify who they wish to interview. Interviews are scheduled for April 29 and 30.

“We are hopeful that we will find a lot of candidates who can do this job and do it well, and be able to choose from those,” said MacArthur. “But if we do not find the right fit, we will not be in any hurry to hire anybody. We want to make sure we do this right.”