Denmark names new town manager

ON THE JOB — Dan Merhalski, Denmark’s new Town Manager, brings 10 years of experience as a planner to his new job.

ON THE JOB — Dan Merhalski, Denmark’s new Town Manager, brings 10 years of experience as a planner to his new job.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

DENMARK — Daniel Merhalski had served 10 years as a municipal planner for cities, towns and tribes both large and small when he decided to return to the small town life he loves best. As of Sept. 29, the 37-year-old began working for Denmark, in his first job as a town manager.

Merhalski was hired by the Board of Selectmen to replace Ephram Paraschak, who left in July to become Naples Town Manager. Merhalski was still settling into the job Friday, with his first regular meeting with selectmen still ahead of him.

He said he aims to serve as “a neutral implementer of the policies of the board,” with a helpful approach that eschews ego or hidden agendas. Where needed, he said he’ll advise the board of their options and the possible outcomes of their policies, both good and bad.

“I don’t want to take on any of the bad habits I’ve seen with other town managers,” said Merhalski, whose starting salary will be $56,000.

Merhalski graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northern Michigan University in 2002 with a B.S. in Political Science and History, and went on to receive a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the same school two years later. In May of 2007 he also earned a Master’s in History from Salem State College, after working two years as a Staff Planner in Salem, Mass., a city of 42,000.

At the Salem job, his duties were similar to those he had in his first job as City Planner for Negaunee, Mich., from 2003 to 2005. He worked closely with the planning board, zoning board of appeals, City Council and city departments, with a focus on reviewing development proposals and writing legal decisions of board actions.

In 2007 he moved to Farmington, N.H., to work as that town’s director of planning and community development for two years. Another two-year stint followed as Town Planner of Moultonborough, N.H., before he took on his most recent job, as Associate Planner for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, on the tip of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

When the offer came to become Denmark’s Town Manager, Merhalski didn’t hesitate. “This was the trajectory I was moving toward,” he said.

It also allowed him to be part of a small town, with Denmark’s population of 1,500. He is very impressed with what he’s seen so far.

Attending a public hearing last week on what elements need to be part of a new ordinance for the town-owned Perley Mills Community Forest, Merhalski said town leaders have done an excellent job of preparing to take on what should be an exciting and ambitious project.

“It’s rare to see the level of commitment” that is evident among the citizens of Denmark, he said.

Selectmen and town employees and others he’s met so far have all been “exceptionally friendly, very open, very honest,” said Merhalski. “They’re very willing to share with me all of their cards. It’s nice to be in a community where people care about one another.”

He said he and his wife Anna, with their six-month-old daughter Isabel, are looking for a place to live nearby and will be relocating in the near future.

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