We were surprised to learn two weeks ago about the Newcastle Board of Selectmen’s decision not to renew Town Administrator Lynn Maloney’s contract.
The struggles of Maine towns to hire and retain town administrators and town managers have been well-publicized, both in our pages and in the pages of newspapers across the state.
Some of the problems relate to individuals who lack the ability to navigate small-town politics. Other administrators appear to skip from job to job in search of the best salary and benefits package, which creates resentment in each town they use as a stepping stone.
There seems to be a lingering resistance among rural Mainers to the entire concept of a town administrator or manager. The argument goes something like this: “Three selectmen managed fine for 200 years; we don’t need a high-paid bureaucrat from out of state to tell us how to run our town.”
To all of these problems, Lynn Maloney appears to be an excellent solution.
A native of Newcastle and graduate of Lincoln Academy who continues to live in Newcastle, she has deep roots in the community. As an employee of the town for 24 years this month, she has a wealth of institutional knowledge. She administers and advises, but stays above the political fray. She knows the people she works with and the personalities who wield influence in the town.
Her long tenure offers the town stability in the position, which has seen fairly rapid turnover since its creation.
It seems worth noting that nearby towns with the most stability at the position in recent years are Bristol and Damariscotta, both places where the town administrator or manager lives in the community.
It’s not just us making these observations. Here’s what Newcastle Board of Selectmen Chairman Brian Foote had to say about the town’s appointment of Maloney to her current position after a nearly year-long trial period as interim administrator:
“She was born and raised here,” Foote said. “She loves this town and she knows the majority of the residents. Her passion and compassion is really there for the town and its residents. I think that makes a big difference, versus someone from away who’s just moving into town or not even living in town.”
Something changed for the selectmen, and we don’t know what it was. As a news organization that both covers Newcastle and is headquartered in Newcastle, we observe Newcastle politics closely, and we can’t say we noticed any change in her job performance.
In his cartoon this week, which got us thinking about the subject, Glenn Chadbourne calls Lynn Maloney “a gem of a person” who has been “a wonderful asset to the town of Newcastle.” We concur.
We wish Lynn the best of luck going forward, and we wish the selectmen luck finding an individual capable of taking her place.