GOULDSBORO — Andrea Sirois isn’t retiring her snow boots, shovel and ice scraper any time soon.
In recent weeks, the town manager had submitted her resignation and the Board of Selectmen had launched a search for her successor. But Sirois and the board further conferred last Thursday night and reached an agreement enabling her to stay in the job.
At the meeting, the selectmen and Sirois talked in executive session before the board voted 5-0 in public to cease its search for a new town manager and to disregard her 63-day notice. They also voted to hire up to two people on a part-time basis to fill the functions of treasurer and tax collector as part of their effort to make the town manager’s position more manageable. The treasurer and tax collector functions either could be combined in one part-time position or handled by two people on a part-time basis, Sirois reported.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Dana Rice says the town manager’s job is increasingly demanding and the town can no longer assume that town managers can serve as town clerk, treasurer, tax collector and overseer of the poor as well as manage personnel. Current responsibilities also include overseeing the local response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has no short-term end in sight.
Within the past five years, Gouldsboro has had four town managers including Eve Wilkinson, who has served twice as interim town manager after retiring from the job in 2015. She served as town manager for a quarter of a century.
“When you lose a town manager, you lose everything,” Rice said Monday, noting times have changed and it no longer is practical for so many municipal functions to be carried out by just one person. “We are happy to have Andrea remain.”
Last June, Sirois was hired by the town to succeed Wilkinson as interim town manager. In August of 2019, Wilkinson began filling in as acting town manager following the resignation of Sherri Dowling. Dowling succeeded Bryan Kaenrath, who was town manager from 2015 to 2018.
Originally from Nevada, Sirois has spent most of her life in the Western states of Arizona and California as well as stints in Australia and Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia. Sirois holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, with a minor in environmental studies, from the University of Arizona. Living in the Tucson area after college, she gained experience working in municipal and state government before moving to Maine in 2019.
Accustomed to towns with a mayor-council form of government, Sirois has learned on the job how the Board of Selectmen runs the town on a day-to-day basis while town residents have the final say on the budget, zoning changes and other major items at the annual town meeting. Each facet of her job — town clerk, treasurer, tax collector, general assistance, personnel management — has its own distinct, often technical tasks and responsibilities that she has had to learn. It didn’t help that the coronavirus pandemic’s threat was intensified at the time of her hiring. Since then, she has been like a mouse on a fast-moving treadmill forever trying to catch up.
Sirois, who has come to love the Schoodic Peninsula and the community, worried she was not up to the task.
“Because there have been so many responsibilities, I have had to react day-by-day and sometimes hour-to-hour,” said Sirois, who submitted her resignation on Oct. 15. “My concern really was coming into winter, with all the general assistance, and being able to support residents in the way they would expect from a town manager.”
Sirois is relieved and gratified by the selectmen’s willingness to redefine the town manager’s job and allocate funds for part-timers to shoulder some of the responsibilities. She is looking forward to doing some long-term planning.
“I am really excited to stay,” she said Friday. “I am lucky to have the board’s support and residents’ support.”