DAMARISCOTTA, Maine — Incoming Town Manager Matthew Lutkus and his wife, Julie, arrived at their new home in Damariscotta on Thursday, fulfilling a longtime dream they’ve had of living on the Maine coast and for Lutkus a professional goal of being at the helm of a small municipality.
Lutkus, 58, who has spent his career working in relatively large cities — including the past 32 years in 110,000-person Westminster, Colo. — said his experience in human resources, administration, facility maintenance and environmental law compliance, among other areas, will translate well to the small-town scene. Lutkus, who starts his new post Jan. 3, said he has been looking for an opportunity to move to the Damariscotta area for at least five years.
“When the job came open here we received a call from a good friend,” said Lutkus on Thursday morning, just hours after driving across the country. “We decided to put our plans to move on the fast track.”
Lutkus has worked in the Westminster, Colo., city manager’s office since 1980, most recently as a deputy city manager helping to oversee nearly 1,000 employees and a $160 million budget. In the past he also has worked in municipal governments in Kansas City, Mo., and West Hartford, Conn. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Southern Connecticut State College and a master’s in public administration from the University of Connecticut. In Colorado he was involved in numerous civic organizations ranging from a mental health center to the local Rotary.
He said one of the chief strengths he brings is people skills.
“I can’t say I have any magic or any tricks up my sleeve, but the priority is going to be developing relationships on the regional and local levels,” he said. “I worked on several regional efforts in Colorado. Human relations skills will be critical here as well.”
Lutkus said his first goal will be meeting with business owners by going door to door to introduce himself. He said he believes in “transparency in local government” and intends to make himself available to virtually anyone who comes to the town office with an idea or concern.
“I want folks to come in and feel they have someone to talk to,” he said. “I can’t promise that we’ll be able to address every issue. Most of it, obviously, comes down to money.”
Lufkus replaces former Town Manager Greg Zinser, who took a job as York County administrator earlier this year. Donald Gerrish, former longtime manager in Brunswick, has been filling in on a temporary basis.
Lutkus and the town’s selectmen have agreed on a three-year employment contract and a salary of $80,000 a year plus benefits.
In addition to his professional goals, living close to the ocean will help Lutkus perpetuate his long-standing hobbies of serving as a sea kayak instructor, sailing and collecting antique outboard motors. Though Colorado is a long way from salt water, Lutkus said he was president of a sea kayak association — but he said sea kayaks are a type of kayak that can be used anywhere.
“I’m definitely into boating and all sorts of floating vessels,” he said. “I definitely have an eccentricity there.”
Lutkus’ wife, Julie, is a writer working on her first novel. Between them, they have three children ages 15 to 25.
Lutkus said he hopes to stay in his new post for the long term.
“I hope it’s a good first three years so that the Board of Selectmen will want me to sign on for another three years after that,” he said. “My wife has told me this is the last time we’re moving. This is where I hope to eventually retire, but I’m not even close to that right now.”