2015-01-09 / Front Page

Manager takes power district post

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

ARUNDEL — The town of Arundel is on the hunt for a new town manager following the Dec. 29 announcement that Todd Shea will leave Feb. 2 to take the reins of the Kennebunk Light and Power District (KLPD).

A press release issued Monday, Dec. 29, by Jay Kilbourn, president of the KLPD board of trustees, said the board chose Shea unanimously at a special meeting held Dec. 26. More than 40 applicants submitted resumes to replace Sharon Staz, who is retiring after more than 15 years at KLPD’s general manager.

“I am extremely honored and proud to be selected from so many applicants,” Shea was quoted as saying in the KLPD press release. “I am committed to transparency and public service, and look forward to the opportunity.”

During a telephone interview Monday afternoon, Shea said the decision to leave Arundel after 3 1/2 years came down to finding new hills to climb.

“It was a very interesting challenge that I’m really looking forward to taking on,” he said. “I enjoy the town of Arundel immensely but, to me, this was an opportunity to branch out into something new.”

In a Dec. 29 email, Dan Dubois, chairman of the Arundel Board of Selectmen, confirmed the town is looking for new leadership.

“Although I’m disappointed that Todd is leaving us, disappointed in that we are losing a great town manager and have to start the search process all over again, I’m happy for him and am very confident that he’ll do well at Kennebunk Light and Power District. I believe they made an excellent choice,” he wrote.

According to Kilbourn, Staz will stay on to assist Shea in the transition.

“Mr. Shea will have the opportunity to guide the district through a period of rapid change in the energy industry,” he said.

In addition to developing a new comprehensive strategic plan, Shea is expected to take a leading role over the next year as KLPD grapples with the fate of its three hydro-power dams.

KLPD’s license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its dams — at the old Twine, Kesslen and Dane Perkins mills on the Mousam River — expires in 2022. The district must notify the feds by March 2017 if it plans to renew those permits. This past fall, the water level of the Mousam River was lowered to facilitate installation of new hydraulic operating systems at the dams.

While Shea was not willing to divulge what direction KLPD plans to go in regards to re-licensing its dams, he did say he is not joining the district in time to manage himself out of a job.

“That was one of the questions I asked and I was told in no uncertain terms that they aren’t going anywhere, the district is not interested in dissolving in any way whatsoever.”

Shea, a 1996 graduate of the University of New England spent a decade in the building industry before entering public service. He was city manager in Hallowell from 2008 to June 2011, when he took the Arundel job, reportedly to be closer to his home in Lyman. Shea grew up in Biddeford.

Shea was making $77,000 per year plus benefits as town manager of Arundel. While he declined to say how much he’d make at KLPD, referring the question to the board of trustees, he did allow that, “it is an increase in pay, with some added benefits including performance bonuses.”

Founded in 1893 as a branch of Kennebunk municipal government, KLPD was chartered as an independent entity in 1951. It is one of two light and power districts created by the state legislature, the other being in Van Buren. A consumer-owned, nonprofit, KLPD supplies electricity to 6,599 customers in Lyman, Wells and Arundel, as well as most of Kennebunk.

KLPD was besieged by rumors in Jan. 2014 that it had been taken over by Central Maine Power. Kennebunk Police said phone calls made to KLPD customers at the time to “resolve client debts” were part of a scam designed to collect credit card information.

On Jan. 1 KLPD rates were slated to go up 2¢, to 8.5¢ per kilowatt hour. Staz told the Post in November that the average KLPD residential customer uses 750 kilowatt hours of energy per month, equating to an expected average rate increase of $15.43 per month.

“The energy industry as a whole is being challenged because of the high cost of production,” said Shea. “So, I’m excited about helping them [KLPD] find new sources of revenue. I will do my best to be a steward of the history of the district while simultaneously looking ahead to the future.”

Now, Arundel must look to the future as well.

“I believe that Todd has been very good for the town of Arundel. He’s a good-natured, level-headed individual and is very approachable,” said Dubois. “His enthusiasm has a way of brightening up the room and those traits have made him an excellent manager for the town of Arundel. Todd has done an excellent job in keeping taxes flat while continuing to push to build our capital projects fund for town infrastructure. His services will truly be missed.”

Selectman Thomas Danylik said Shea submitted his resignation Dec. 22. His last day with the town will be Jan. 30.

Danylik, who spearheaded the last town manager search in Arundel, has already got the ball rolling on a new effort. A human resources consulting agency will be contracted to help with the selection process, he said.

“I’m not sure we’re going to have time to go through the formal bid process, but I have already contacted several firms and asked them to submit proposals,” said Danylik, “We’d like to have someone in here, the sooner the better, but you don’t want to make a hasty decision, either, in this context.

“I really anticipate that we’ll need an interim [town manager,” said Danylik, adding, “This is just my personal view, but I think the board was very satisfied with the work Todd provided and the direction he took us in.”

Asked what qualities he’d most like to see in Shea’s replacement, Danylik said it comes down to dollars and cents, along with a healthy supply of good ol’ common sense.

“First and foremost, I’m looking for someone with a handle on budgetary matters, someone who can handle personnel matters, and someone who can handle the public, and by handle I mean be respectful while at the same time implementing the policies of the board in way that is evenhanded to everybody.”

For his part, Shea is rooting for the town to find exactly that.

“Arundel it is great community,” he said. “Hopefully someone in this industry will see that and want to come here.”

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