FILE PHOTO

Beal to lead municipal group’s executive committee in October



FILE PHOTO
Ellsworth City Manager Michelle Beal

ELLSWORTH — City Manager Michelle Beal knew she was going to become president in January, but now it turns out she’ll be taking on that new title in October.

No, you didn’t miss any national election returns — those are still a couple of years off, in 2016 — and no, Ellsworth will not need to find a new city manager.

Rather, Beal will become president of the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) Executive Committee, effective Friday, Oct. 3. She’ll serve in that role concurrently with her job as city manager.

Beal has served as the Executive Committee’s vice president since the start of 2014. She was set to serve as president starting Jan. 1, 2015, but due to the recently announced retirement of the committee’s current president — Oakland Town Manager Peter Nielsen — her start date has been moved up several months.

“My biggest goal is to build on the relationships with the state legislature and the governor, whomever that is after November,” Beal said.

Beal said municipalities across the state have been struggling with cuts implemented by Governor Paul LePage and the Legislature. A reduction in municipal revenue sharing is the biggest example of that, Beal said.

Beal said municipalities are “pretty limited in the way that we are able to earn revenue,” and said she wants to make that clear to politicians in Augusta.

“There just needs to be a better understanding,” she said, adding that she believes that kind of understanding used to exist.

Beal said another MMA committee, the 70-member Legislative Policy Committee, looks at pending legislation and related issues and decides what MMA’s position and response will be.

“That’s the direct representation of the municipalities,” she explained.

Local members of that committee include Ellsworth City Councilor Gary Fortier, Blue Hill Selectman Jim Schatz and Bucksport Town Manager Derik Goodine.

Beal said the Executive Committee has identified five priority issues that affect and are of concern to municipalities: the state’s “dishonoring” of established commitments, an increased property tax burden, K-12 education funding, the state’s “retreat from investments in transportation infrastructure” and state-mandated regionalization and consolidation efforts.

Beal said the Executive Committee meets on a regular monthly basis and also on an as-needed basis.

Stephan Bunker, a selectman from the town of Farmington, is set to become the Executive Committee’s vice president in January. Beal said with Nielsen leaving town government, the group will need to find someone else to fill the post of immediate past president.

In addition to Beal, Bunker and the immediate past president, the MMA Executive Committee has nine other members, including town managers, mayors and councilors from across the state.

Beal’s term as the group’s president will continue until Dec. 31, 2015.

As for Nielsen, he told the Kennebec Journal that he is planning on being a bus driver once he retires on Oct. 3.

“I’ve thought about what I’d like to do after town management,” he told the Augusta-based newspaper, “and anything with an engine and a steering wheel is attractive to me.”

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller

Reporter at The Ellsworth American,
Steve Fuller worked at The Ellsworth American from 2012 to early 2018. He covered the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. A native of Waldo County, he served as editor of Belfast's Republican Journal prior to joining the American. He lives in Orland.
Steve Fuller

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