STOCKTON SPRINGS, Maine — The new Stockton Springs town manager said this week that he is looking forward to helping keep the small midcoast community “on a level keel.”
Rich Couch, 43, most recently has been working for the New York Department of Labor in Cortland, N.Y. His experience in public service, in New York, Maine and Washington, D.C., should help him keep Stockton Springs steady through a time of continued economic challenge, he said.
“I’ve devoted my career to public service — keeping people safe, making government work for people,” he said. “We’re going to continue that course in Stockton Springs.”
The Stockton Springs Board of Selectmen on Thursday announced that Couch would be the full-time town manager, taking over from interim manager Joshua “Skip” Day III, who has filled in part time since former manager Joe Hayes resigned in January.
“I think Mr. Couch will be a good fit with the town of Stockton Springs and will work well with us,” Stockton Springs Selectman Peter Curley said.
Couch, who originally is from a small town in New York, received a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Maine. He has worked at the American Cancer Society, where he led the field effort behind Maine’s 1999 smoke-free restaurant law and New York’s 2003 clean indoor air law.
He also helped to coordinate New York’s statewide health care reorganization several years ago and has worked as an advocate for road and bridge repair and maintenance with the Associated General Contractors of New York State. This will be the first time he works as a town manager.
According to Couch, one of the major challenges facing Stockton Springs and other communities right now is “staying afloat in this economy,” and helping residents afford to pay their property taxes.
“People come to expect services from government,” he said. “There are no magic answers.”
Towns have responsibilities that include making sure that the infrastructure is in good repair and that the firetruck has enough gas in its tank to be available when needed.
“We can look for ways to cut costs, but there are basic necessities people expect government to pay for,” Couch said. “We live in a country where if you pick up a phone and dial 911, you expect help to be there … It’s about balance. I hope to help with that, and keep us on an even keel.”
The public administrator has long dreamed of returning to Maine, where he lived from 1994 to 2000.
“I announced to my family that I was moving to Maine when I was 10 years old,” he said. “I’m a child of my word. I’m back.”