2015-02-13 / Community

Arundel names interim town manager

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

Jack Turcotte Jack Turcotte ARUNDEL — If residents of Arundel are overly concerned about who selectmen might hire to be their next town manager, it wasn’t evident Monday night, as only two people showed up for a public hearing on the selection process — and one of them was the budget committee chairman, already scheduled to be at the regular selectmen’s meeting that night.

Of course, the weather may have played a role.

“It was a pretty nasty night to some degree, I think people are busy with all the snow removal and stuff,” said Jack Turcotte, hired Jan. 26 to serve as interim town manager until a permanent replacement for Todd Shea can be found.

Shea, hired as Arundel’s top administrator in 2011, gave notice in late December that he would be leaving to become the executive director of the Kennebunk Light and Power District. His last day in Arundel was Feb. 2.

Turcotte, an Arundel resident of eight years, is dividing his time between the town office and the central office of the Andover School Department, where he works as a sort of interim superintendent, or, as he describes the job, a start-up administrator.

Andover is in the process of separating from RSU 44, which includes Bethel, Greenwood and Woodstock.

In 2012, Turcotte chaired a withdrawal committee that recommended Arundel pull out of RSU 21. He was hired to facilitate a similar process in Freeport the following year. Neither town ultimately withdrew from its school district. However, Ellsworth chose to strike out on its own and Turcotte served as a start-up administrator there in 2014.

Turcotte, 67, previously served as a school superintendent and city manager in Ellsworth. He also was town manager of Old Orchard Beach — where he’s also clocked in as superintendent — for 3½ years, ending in 2011. Prior to that, a career in education going back more than 40 years has seen Turotte at the helm of school departments in Sanford, Lincoln, Greenville and Jackman, among other places.

Turcotte’s contract in Arundel calls for him to be paid a flat per diem rate of $275 per day. He said Tuesday that although he must split his time with Andover, he expects to be in the Arundel Town Office up to four days per week.

Daniel Dubois, chairman of the board of selectmen, said Turcotte has the experience to do the job in Arundel — duties that will include picking up the budgetary ball from Shea and shepherding the town’s 2015-2016 budget though the process to town meeting in June. It is not expected that a new town manager will be hired until mid-April, at the earliest.

“Todd [Shea] has set the bar high and the next town manager will have some big shoes to fill,” Dubois said.

A search committee including Dubois and his fellow selectmen, John Bell and Jack Reetz, will work with Easton Peabody Consulting Group to locate a candidate for the job.

According to Turcotte, who said he’s not in the running, applications are due by the end of February. Top candidates are expected to be interviewed in March and early April.

While only two residents were at Monday’s public hearing, selectmen walked through the planned agenda, ticking off challenges faced by the town and qualities they’d like to see in Shea’s permanent replacement.

“We had a good discussion,” said Turcotte. “It was a good exercise that had actually not been done yet.”

That said, what bubbled up were items that Turcotte termed “not particularly out of the ordinary.”

Named challenges to be dealt with by the next manager included handling the Route 1 corridor, keeping the tax rate “within reason,” finding a means to bring in more low-cost senior housing and spurring economic development – particularly trying to get a bite of the medical office pie.

“Those seem to be popping up everywhere, yet Arundel has not had any,” said Turcotte.

Town manager characteristics also were, “mostly what you would expect,” said Turcotte. Key expectations were someone with knowledge of the area and/or of small-town government in Maine, a flair for economic development, and above average interpersonal skills — “a people person,” as Turcotte put it.

A second public hearing will precede the next selectmen’s meeting, starting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 23, in the library of the Mildred L. Day Elementary School.

“Hopefully, more people will come,” said Turcotte.

Meanwhile, the educator’s attention is focused on learning the basics of Arundel’s annual budget, although he said he sees “no major red flags at this point.”

“Budgeting is not foreign to me,” he said. “I’ve been involved in school budgets ranging from $100,000 to $32 million.

“Of course, municipalities are different,” Turcotte said. “I have to ask a lot of questions, but I have a staff here that’s been very, very helpful, and we’ll all pull together to team the effort. This won’t be Jack’s budget. It will be sort of a community effort.”

Public hearing

Arundel selectmen have scheduled a second public hearing to take comment on challenges faced by the town and what qualities residents desire in a new town manager. That meeting kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23, at the Mildred L. Day Elementary School.

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