BUCKSPORT — A day after the Town Council voted to fire former Town Manager Derik Goodine, the group approved hiring Susan Lessard, outgoing manager of Hampden, to lead Bucksport on an interim basis.
Lessard will begin work Monday, the council announced Wednesday evening.
The town is contracting Lessard’s services through Eaton Peabody Consulting Group. Lessard will work in Bucksport three days a week at a flat fee to Eaton Peabody of $500 a day, according to Mayor and Council Chairman David Keene.
That’ll be the only cost to the town, as Lessard isn’t relying on Bucksport for benefits, Keene said.
She has verbally committed to working in Bucksport through at least July 1, 2016, Keene added, meaning she’ll likely see to completion the town’s 2016-2017 budget.
According to Keene, the council was able to quickly announce Lessard’s hiring because he first contacted Eaton Peabody several weeks ago, when discussions turned to severing Goodine’s contract.
“We were looking into it just to cover our tails, so to speak,” Keene said. “We couldn’t afford not to have someone in place for weeks at a time.”
Councilors have not said why they fired Goodine. A clause in his three-year contract allowed them to do so without stating a reason, though Councilor David Kee previously shared his and other councilors’ belief that Goodine took too long to prepare the current year’s budget.
Interviewed last month, Goodine said the process took a long time because he was adjusting to the town’s accounting techniques and was also saddled by challenges related the closure of the local paper mill in December. He was also calculating new sewer rates for the town simultaneously.
He had defenders on the council, including two members who voted against firing him and one, Byron Vinton III, who quit last week because he supported Goodine’s vision and didn’t want to be associated with the vote.
Goodine’s salary was $82,000. According to his contract, his severance package consists of six months’ pay and health coverage.
Like Goodine, Lessard has spent many years working for municipal governments. According to a resume handed out Wednesday evening, she worked as town clerk and assistant manager in Searsport in the early 1980s. Since then, she’s managed Livermore Falls, Fayette, Vinalhaven and, for the last 15 years, Hampden.
“She comes extremely highly recommended,” Kee said Wednesday, citing the need to “stabilize the ship” in Bucksport. “She’s extremely strong on finances, which is her specialty.”
Lessard was born and raised in Belfast and lives there now.
In remarks Wednesday, she said, “I’m very familiar with Bucksport, and I look forward to the opportunity to serve the people in an interim capacity and help them find their way to their next town manager.”
She said she stepped down from the Hampden position because she was tired of working 70-hour weeks.
Since she’s not ready to retire completely, she said she’ll continue to work for towns on an interim basis. Her door will be open to any residents with questions or concerns.
Keene said the search for a permanent Bucksport manager will likely begin in spring of 2016, after a crop of new council members swear their oaths in January. Several seats are opening up and will be voted on in November.
Bucksport’s current approach is similar to one taken by Ellsworth after former City Manager Michelle Beal stepped down and David Cole was hired, first on an interim basis and then permanently.
The town has also advertised openings for finance and economic development director positions, after Katherine Hickson and Dave Milan resigned from those respective roles in the last year.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify how much the town is paying Eaton Peabody for Lessard’s services.