ROCKLAND, Maine — New city manager Rosemary Kulow relishes a challenge — and she thinks Rockland will provide her with a good one.
As she settled in to her third week at the helm of the city, Kulow spoke about her priorities, including fixing some of Rockland’s infrastructure, encouraging public participation in local government and working to bring more cruise ships into the harbor.
“I really wanted a lot to do,” Kulow said Wednesday. “I certainly got that.”
Kulow, originally from Wisconsin, most recently served as manager for the southern Maine town of New Gloucester, where she counts increasing public awareness and helping to get a new fire and rescue station built among her successes.
She was attracted to Rockland because of its midcoast location and its “wonderful issues,” including the city’s unique status as a service community for a large area.
“What I would like to see is for Rockland to maintain its cultural heritage, and at the same time remain open to development,” Kulow said.
Her management style includes encouraging “a lot of teamwork,” she said. “No one person has all the answers,” she said. “I try to hold people accountable for what they’re responsible for. It’s a very participatory style of management.”
As Kulow plunges into city governance, she’ll be wrestling with the budget for the next fiscal year. She said she plans to encourage her department heads to be “creative” about finding sources of revenue that aren’t limited to property tax increases. Additionally, the city expects to get funding from FEMA to help pay for December’s series of winter storms.
On the infrastructure front, Kulow said that renovating the community center is high on her list. The building needs improvements ranging from a new roof to new restrooms. The city also has some shovel-ready projects in line that would improve its wastewater treatment capability and mitigate flooding.
If a national infrastructure stimulus package passes, it could be good for Rockland, she said.
“It would be a boon to the area economy, too,” Kulow said.
Rockland’s waterfront is another area of the city that Kulow has her eye on, especially considering that in recent years the city of 7,500 has been moving away from its well-known past as a fishing and fish-processing center.
“I’d really like to see us encourage mixed use of our working waterfront,” she said. “Portland is definitely a good model of that.”
Part of a mixed usage could include cruise ships. Kulow hopes to change the city’s port classification.
“The goal is for our port to be able to accept foreign ships rather than have them stop at Bar Harbor or Portland first,” she said.
Her to-do list may be long, but Kulow seems enthusiastic.
“I really want to be productive and accomplish what the city needs to see done,” she said.