WINDHAM — Lakes Region town managers get by with a little help from their colleagues, meeting approximately every month in Windham to discuss current issues and learn from experiences in different towns.
“I seem to have become kind of the de facto convener,” said longtime Windham Town Manager Tony Plante, who called the regular but informal town manager meetings an “opportunity just to hear what’s going on around the region.”
Plante said attendance varies per meeting, but managers regularly involved include those from Standish, Gorham, Raymond, Casco, Naples, Sebago, Gray, New Gloucester, Bridgton and Harrison.
“Being a manager can be a lonely position,” said Gray Town Manager Deborah Cabana.
Casco’s Dave Morton, who’s been on the job for 40 years, said the meetings offer a chance to “swap war stories, provide a little moral support and learn a lot.”
Similar groups meet within Cumberland County and in neighboring regions, Morton said, and the Lakes Region group has existed in some form in the four decades he’s been manager.
Bridgton Town Manager Bob Peabody attended such a group when he was manager in Rockland and said he finds the Lakes Region meetings to be “very, very helpful.”
Morton credits Plante for organizing the group productively. Plante sometimes arranges for guest speakers, he said.
New Gloucester Town Manager Carrie Castonguay, who started in her role last year, said the group provides a “tremendous resource,” especially for those new to municipal management.
Kris Tucker, who replaced longtime Standish manager Gordy Billington in December, is in his early 40s and the youngest in the group. He said he sees his role in part as a generational translator “between the boomers and the millennials.”
There’s “no sense of competition or rivalries” among the informal managers’ group and it produces good ideas, he said.
“It’s not just a forum for blowing off steam,” Tucker said, who has now attended a couple of meetings.
Don Willard, who has been the manager in Raymond since 2000, thinks the group is particularly helpful for the newer managers.
“No two days are ever the same in town government,” Willard said. “It’s about solving problems and making a difference in your small town.”
Michele Bukoveckas, who became Sebago manager last year after 19 years as the town clerk, said being a town manager requires “the ability to multi-task and change direction very quickly.”
When asked about the best part and most challenging part of being a manager, Morton had the same response for both: people.
“People – people make it interesting, and make it rewarding, and make it challenging,” said Morton. “If you don’t like working with people, you’d never want to be in this business.”
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.