ELLSWORTH — The Maine Secretary of State’s Office announced Tuesday that Michael Boucher of Sorrento has been elected Hancock County treasurer.
Boucher, who has worked as a part-time Hancock County corrections officer since July, was a declared write-in candidate.
He ran against another declared write-in candidate, Pamela J. Linscott of Gouldsboro. Linscott is Hancock County’s finance coordinator.
Boucher will replace Treasurer Janice Eldridge, who did not seek re-election.
Boucher won by a narrow margin. Secretary of State’s Office spokeswoman Kristen Muszynski said Boucher received 478 write-in votes. Linscott received 404 votes. That’s a difference of 74.
If the name “Boucher” seems familiar, he served two years on the Ellsworth City Council, from 2010 to 2012. He resigned in 2012, a year before his term was up, due to family issues.
What’s he been up to since?
“I’ve been a police officer most of that time,” Boucher said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
“I’m chief of police for a part-time department [Northport Village] in Waldo County,” he said.
“Since being a city councilor, I’ve just really focused on my family and my career,” Boucher said. “I decided to get back into politics over the summer when I realized the Republicans didn’t have a candidate for treasurer.
“I’m willing to invest my time and effort completely to be the best treasurer I can be for the people of Hancock County,” Boucher said.
When asked about his accounting or finance knowledge, Boucher said “the training I have is through the city government and being a city councilor and also through the budgeting process that we do for the police department. That’s the extent of my financial experience.”
The relationship between the Hancock County Commissioners and the office of county treasurer has been rocky at times.
The commission was admonished by a state auditor in 2015 for restricting the hours and duties of former Treasurer Janice Eldridge. Eldridge was elected in 2010. She is now completing her second four-year term.
The board had restricted the treasurer’s hours before Eldridge was elected.
After longtime treasurer Sally Crowley died in 2008, the commissioners created the position of chief financial officer to handle county finances.
Phil Roy was hired in 2009 to fill that role. At that time, there was an interim treasurer, Cathy Planchart, who had been appointed after Crowley’s passing. Planchart worked just a handful of hours a week.
When Eldridge ran and won the office of treasurer in 2010, the board was still limiting the work of the treasurer to five hours a week.
Fast forward five years. The relationship between the commissioners and Roy went south and he left in 2015.
Meanwhile, State Auditor Pola Buckley investigated and determined the commissioners had “sidestepped” the will of the voters by installing a chief financial officer to handle county finances and by reducing the workload of the county treasurer to five hours a week. Hiring a CFO interfered with the statutory requirements of the county treasurer, Buckley ruled.
Maine law dictates that each county have an elected treasurer. It takes a referendum vote to change the position to an appointed one.
The commissioners had tried previously, in 2005, to get the position changed from elected to appointed, but voters rejected the proposal.
Part of the issue is that anyone who meets the requirement of residing in Hancock County may run for the office of county treasurer. There are no other requirements.
“In Hancock County alone, with all of the budgets combined, you are talking about the oversight of almost $20 million in transactions,” said County Administrator Scott Adkins. “For the average citizen to believe that this can be responsibly managed by someone without any financial, accounting and/or bookkeeping experience is unrealistic.
“However, we have an elected process, which needs to be respected, and there are ways that this can be done and maintain an effective government at the same time,” Adkins said.
Commissioner Bill Clark has pushed for Hancock County to consider making the office of treasurer an appointed position instead of an elected one.
“It’s an archaic system,” Clark said. “It probably worked 50 years ago, but it’s far more complicated today. It isn’t something you step into unprepared.
“Mike has absolutely no financial experience,” Clark said. “The woman who was his opposition has been serving in that capacity for three years and would be much better prepared to take over.
“Now we’re left with an elected official with no experience yet we need to keep” the finance staff already on board.
“It’s going to drive the cost of monitoring our finances up,” Clark said. “We’re going to have to retain his opposition. So, here we go.
“We’re going to have to decide now in what capacity is he going to serve,” Clark said. “It’s kind of going to be up to him. Does he want to learn the job? Does he want to be a figurehead signing checks once a week? We’re going to have to have a discussion with him about his long-term goals.”
For Linscott, it will be business as usual in the county finance office.
“I will strive to continue with my strong work ethic that I have already shown to Hancock County and keep the Treasurer’s Office running to the best of my ability the way it has been operating for the past 3½ years,” Linscott said. “I am happy that I get to keep the job responsibilities I already have and know how to perform very well. I will certainly be here to train and assist the new treasurer.”
County Administrator Scott Adkins said the new treasurer will be paid a stipend of $100 a week or $5,200 a year. That was a vote the Hancock County Commissioners took at a Nov. 7 meeting. The office also comes with paid health insurance.
Adkins said the stipend was intended as a base amount of pay for the statutory duties of the treasurer. If the individual was able to offer more and the hours were available, then additional duties and responsibilities could lead to higher compensation.
The Maine Association of County Clerks, Administrators and Managers conducted a survey about compensation.
Adkins said “there’s a wide disparity regarding treasurer compensation.”
Outgoing Hancock County Treasurer Eldridge’s annual salary is $39,057. In Sagahadoc County, the treasurer is paid $5,538. Adkins said the average is around $14,835.
York County residents on Nov. 6 voted to keep the job of county treasurer an elected position.
However, Knox, Androscoggin and Cumberland counties no longer have elected treasurers, according to Adkins.
Back to Treasurer-Elect Boucher, who takes office Jan. 1.
“I’ve heard they want to cut it back to part time like they did with Janice Eldridge,” Boucher said. “It appears it would be at the whim of the county commissioners, given what they decide at any given moment.
“They need to make a decision on how they want to manage it,” Boucher said. “I don’t believe the citizens are going to vote away an elected treasurer anytime soon. They need to work with the parameters of what’s been provided.”