By J.W. Oliver
Outgoing Mobius Inc. Executive Director David Lawlor poses with incoming Executive Director Rebecca Emmons during the agency’s annual meeting at its
community center in Damariscotta Nov. 10. (J.W. Oliver photo)
Mobius Inc. Executive Director David Lawlor will retire Dec. 31 after almost 18 years as head of the Damariscotta nonprofit.
As executive director, Lawlor leads an agency with a budget of almost $5 million and approximately 140 employees – 70 to 80 percent of those full-time – who provide
services to more than 200 individuals with disabilities.
Mobius ranks fifth among Lincoln County employers, according to the Maine Department of Labor.
Lawlor, 61, has a bachelor’s degree from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., with a major in English and a minor in music; and a master’s degree in
rehabilitation of the deaf from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.
From 1982 to 1984, he was the director of a Flint, Mich. agency that works with the deaf. He moved to Maine in 1984 for a position as the deaf services coordinator
for the then-Maine Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation.
He held various positions in state government until 1997, including a stint as the director of the Bureau of Mental Health.
He enrolled in a graduate program in health administration at the University of Minnesota in the late 1990s.
The program caters to practicing administrators, and the Mobius job “was a good match,” Lawlor said. He started at Mobius in early 1997, earned his master’s in 2000,
“and then I just stayed on,” he said.
Lawlor reflected on the reasons for his longevity in the social-services field during a recent interview in his Damariscotta office.
“I think people get rewarded in several ways when they choose a career,” Lawlor said. “It’s either financially … or in politics, I suppose it’s power, but then
there’s the notion of doing something that is worthwhile for the rest of humanity.
“I never like to be dramatic about that, but I certainly felt like the work was worth doing.”
Lawlor repeatedly referenced the agency’s philosophy – valued roles in the community.
The motto “describes what we’re all about … that people not be segregated from their community, that people be able to live, work, play in the communities where they
live,” Lawlor said.
One way Mobius seeks to fulfill this philosophy is to help its consumers find jobs and provide support for consumers at work.
Close to half of the adults Mobius serves work in the community at places like Cod Cove Inn in Edgecomb, the agency’s 2014 Employer of the Year. This far outpaces
the statewide rate of less than 25 percent, according to Lawlor.
A job can be an important step toward independence, and the agency’s efforts to increase consumer independence have been another focus of Lawlor’s tenure.
Many Mobius consumers live in one of the agency’s 15-plus homes with 24/7 staff support. As an agency, Mobius prides itself on “seizing the opportunity when a person
is ready to grow and move on to a less restrictive setting,” Lawlor said.
The agency works with every consumer to create a plan and set goals, then to review the plan and set new goals on an annual basis. The goals of most consumers are
much the same as anyone’s: an apartment, meaningful work, a social life.
The more independent a consumer becomes, the less staff support the consumer needs, which means the agency can direct those resources elsewhere.
This focus on independence helps the agency tackle a key challenge of Lawlor’s tenure – and of the next director’s – that of revenue.
MaineCare “waivers” pay for most of the services Mobius provides. “There’s only so much money available and there are waiting lists for services,” Lawlor said.
As the federal and state governments look to stretch these resources, Mobius will need to increase efficiency and simultaneously maintain “the outcomes we hold
important for the organization,” Lawlor said.
“That’ll be a challenge,” Lawlor said. “It can be done though, I believe.”
Lawlor genuinely enjoys his work with the agency, a point he addressed during a farewell speech at the agency’s annual meeting Nov. 10.
“It’s been a pretty amazing ride for me, and getting to know the individuals whom we’re privileged to support is obviously the high point,” Lawlor said.
Those individuals have taught him “about having a positive attitude in the face of adversity,” he said. “I can’t thank you enough for that.”
He praised the performance of the agency’s senior leadership team.
“You’re always asked to do more and more and more, whether it’s a new licensing regulation or taking on a new program,” Lawlor said at the meeting. “These folks have
always been ready, willing, and very able to take on those challenges, so somebody in my position can’t ask for any more than that.”
Lawlor’s successor, Rebecca Emmons, started Monday, Dec. 1. Emmons returns to Mobius after a prior stint with the agency under Lawlor.
Emmons has the enthusiastic endorsement of her former boss.
“I’m really excited by the fact that Becca Emmons is going to be the director of this agency … Becca brings a lot of energy, commitment, intelligence, and
familiarity with what we do,” Lawlor said at the annual meeting.
Lawlor cited a desire to make time for outside pursuits among his reasons for retirement.
Lawlor plays jazz guitar and writes music. He has one album to his credit as a duo with Brunswick musician Neil Lamb, and would like to form an ensemble to record
another in the not-too-distant future.
He plans to book live performances and possibly teach or take on some part-time consulting.
He will spend time at his camp in the western Maine town of Byron, where he likes to boat and fish. He also runs and plays golf and tennis.
Lawlor lives in Gardiner with his wife, Brenda Harvey. Lawlor and Harvey have an adult son, Sean Lawlor.
A retirement party for Lawlor will take place at the Mobius Inc. community center from 4-6 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5. The community center is at 319 Main St. in