HOULTON, Maine — After seven years in the position, Houlton Town Manager Doug Hazlett announced at a meeting on Monday evening that it was time for him to move on.
Hazlett announced at the end of the Town Council meeting that he was resigning to take a job in the private sector. He submitted his two weeks’ notice and Cathy O’ Leary, the current town clerk, will become the interim town manager. She has held the position several times before. Councilors will meet Thursday evening to begin the process of finding a new manager.
Before Hazlett’s announcement, Phil Bernaiche, a Houlton resident, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and announced the news. He said that he had heard that the council had forced Hazlett out of the position.
Hazlett said that wasn’t the case.
“This decision was mine and mine alone,” the New Limerick resident said. “I have been here seven years and during that time we have worked as a team. I think we’ve done a lot, from extending and improving our sidewalks to energy improvements to lowering the mill rate. In fact, the mill rate is lower now than it was in 2005.”
He added that he “honestly enjoyed” the experience and would “greatly miss” his colleagues.
Councilor Nancy Ketch also dispelled any notion that the council wanted Hazlett to leave.
“If there is any way to talk you out of it, we would,” she told Hazlett. Ketch added that she felt that he had performed his job with a high degree of class and professionalism.
Councilor Sue Tortello agreed.
“You have truly positioned us as a forward-moving town that others are taking notice of,” she said.
Hazlett was hired in March 2005 and was present at a council meeting two weeks before when three members walked out of the meeting after a verbal altercation that had two of them spewing expletives. He took over just as the town was poised to negotiate new contracts with employees in all five of its municipal departments. He helped to complete the building of infrastructure to extend water and sewer systems to serve some North Road businesses and helped lure new businesses to that area and others in town. He helped to create new sidewalks in the community and rebuild existing ones, and he also worked to get the state to repair a section of Route 2A known as Bangor Street after the project had been delayed for eight years. He was instrumental in creating a number of tax increment financing districts in the community and in finding money to improve Riverfront Park near the downtown.
Before serving as town manager, he spent more than 30 years with The Hartford Financial Services Group, one of the largest investment and insurance companies in the United States.