Casco manager job opening goes public

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — On Tuesday, Casco Town Manager Dave Morton met with an electrician about replacing the lights in the town gym, addressed the window sills in the town-owned building next to the library, received engineers’ plans to review for the first time, dealt with a broken mailbox (there are usually two or three per storm) and explained to an individual that the town manager duties do not allow him to assist with subdivision applications.

“Those are all things that happened today,” Morton said. “Other than trying to get the budget together, that is a normal day in the life of a town manager.”

So, how does someone fit all that into a description for a job advertisement?

That is the task for Maine Municipal Association’s (MMA) Dave Barrett, who has been contracted by the Casco Board of Selectmen to help find and hire a new town manager.

By Friday afternoon, the selectmen should be reviewing an advertisement for the Casco town manager position. If no corrections are required, potential candidates for the job opening could be reading the ad this weekend.

Barrett, the director of personnel services and labor relations for MMA, held a workshop with the board during its regular meeting on Tuesday. The board hired Barrett in November to help with the process of hiring a new town manager to replace Morton, who plans to retire this summer.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the selectmen expressed what skills and qualities they envision in the future town manager. Those ideas will be used to create the job posting and to attract likely candidates. Already, a date of March 5 has been set for the board to meet in executive session and review the resume packages.

Selectman Calvin Nutting weighed in toward the end of the talk, putting in a nutshell what selectmen want in the next manager. 

“One of the main things: This individual should be a hands-on person. If they are coming from a utopia job in the ivory tower, they aren’t right. If they plan to burrow in their office behind stacks of paperwork and don’t get out and interact as David has, they aren’t right for us,” Selectman Calvin Nutting said.

Where will the job opening advertisements appear?

“Locally, it is important to [place an ad] in the community newspaper so that they

[residents]

feel like they have been included in the process,” Barrett said. 

The MMA website is free, and MMA has an agreement with Vermont Municipal Association (VMA) to use its job search website for free as well, Barrett said.

The municipal associations of New Hampshire and Massachusetts will cost about $150 each to run for a month, which will cover the New England area, he said.

“The national professional trade organization, they have a job search platform on their website. It is $450,” he said, explaining it was important to reach candidates across the U.S.

MMA has been utilizing Live and Work in Maine, which is an online job search resource. It costs about $50 to advertise on the website, which has become increasingly popular among job hunters.

According to Barrett, the cost will total approximately $950 for advertising on job search websites and in local weekly newspapers. The ads will run for slightly less than one month, roughly from Jan. 25 until Feb. 21, he said.

Earlier in the conversation, Chairman Holly Hancock provided a long checklist regarding the roles and duties of a town manager.

Since Morton serves on the ecomaine Board of Directors, he understands the complex, worldwide issues of recycling profits.

Hancock said it is a priority for the next town manager to have a handle on the Casco-Naples Bulky Waste Facility and Transfer Station.

The candidates should have budget preparation skills, too, she said.

It is important that the candidate is willing to work with other town managers, particularly since there are “several efforts to share some services” with other towns, she said.

“There are the interpersonal skills: Dealing with the public. Conflict resolution is important — between town employees and the public, and between town staff. The manager is the personnel officer,” Hancock said. “We want people to work well together and feel that their concerns are being heard.”

Vice-chair Mary Fernandes touched on the personnel topic, saying the common theme when talking to town staff was: “No micromanagement.”

The candidate should have “the ability to delegate but trust employees. Excellent intrapersonal relationship skills are valuable. They are seasoned staff,” Fernandes said.

The future town manager should be approachable, willing to get to know the townspeople, she said.  “The Town of Casco has had the luxury of having a town manager for 40 year to develop those relationships,” she added.

Hancock agreed.

“Our current manager has an open door policy. That is well-received by the folks in town,” she said.

It is vital that the incoming manager “has a presence in the community,” she said, listing Casco Days as an event that will require the town manager to be out in the public.

“Being aware of what is going on, keeping others informed, and avoiding micromanaging, holding the department heads to their task and expecting them to do their job instead of stepping in,” Hancock said.

Technology savvy is more important than economic development, according to board members. The board prefers to retain existing businesses rather than appeal to lots of new ones.

Selectman Grant Plummer asked Morton to highlight what skills he thinks the best candidates should have.

It would be best “if the board is lucky to get some applications from people who have been or are managers. Even though Casco is a unique community, there are some things that managers have to do that are universal,” Morton said.

“The manager – there aren’t a lot of people to hand things off to.

“I think a manager in another community will have experience with writing ordinances, going over contracts for services,” Morton said.

“The new manager is going to deal with General Assistance. General Assistance is a fairly big demand,” he said, adding that Casco’s demographics range from shorefront properties to people on the lower end of the economic scale.

“The manager develops the budget from scratch. You really need someone who can jump in and assume that role,” he said.

“In Casco, being out there in the community is an important issue. If it is a manager who is not living in the community, they can still manage to do that. Being part of the community has been most helpful to me,” Morton said.

Going over the timeline again, Barrett said by mid-March, “we will be inviting candidates here for interviews. We can arm them with information that would include some things to sell Casco. The first part: why do I want to work in Casco? The second part: why do I want my family and me to live here?”

Morton touched on that, saying that the Town of Casco is fiscally healthy with a solid undesignated fund balance and recent investments in infrastructure like roads and buildings. The staff is well-trained and competent. And, the board is civil with one another, disagreeing in an agreeable way, he said. 

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