June 25, 2018
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Longtime town employee opts out of Houlton manager position

Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times
Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times
Wade Hanson
By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

HOULTON, Maine — At a Town Council meeting two weeks ago, the group smiled broadly as they welcomed a longtime employee as the new town manager.

On Monday evening, they announced that he had decided not to take the job after all.

During the start of the half-hour meeting, council Chairman Paul Cleary read a brief letter submitted by Wade Hanson, who once worked as the town’s code enforcement officer and its community development director. Hanson, who was hired to be the next town manager during a meeting on Aug. 13, stated that he had decided against taking the position.

He did not elaborate on what influenced his decision.

Cleary said that Hanson had “some stuff come up” but would consider such a position in the future.

At the time of his hiring, the town had been searching for a replacement for Doug Hazlett, who resigned as manager in March after seven years in the position.

Several councilors expressed disappointment in Hanson’s decision.

Councilor Nancy Ketch said that Hanson had a “great vision” for the town and would have brought his talents to the position. She said that the town put a lot of thought and time into the hiring process.

Cleary said that Hanson would have made a “very, very good” town manager.

Hanson was hired in September 2001 as manager of the town’s civic center, and in 2002 as the town’s code enforcement officer. He took over as its community development director in July 2007. Hanson resigned from that position last September to serve as the economic development director for the Houlton Band of Maliseets.

In order for Hanson to be hired, councilors two weeks ago stated an intent to change a municipal policy to allow the hiring of an employee for a supervisory position even if they have an immediate family member working in that same department.

Hanson’s mother has worked for the town as its treasurer for several decades. Councilors had to change the hiring policy to employ Hanson as town manager, since as the head of the town, he would have been the boss of his mother. Councilors said during the Aug. 13 meeting that they saw no reason not to amend the policy. They voted unanimously to do that on Monday evening, even though Hanson rescinded his application.

Councilor Mike Jenkins said that he supported the change in policy, especially in a small town where many people are connected to one another.

The only individual who spoke out against the policy change was Carl Lord Jr., a Houlton resident who said that he felt that Hanson “did the right thing” by opting out of the job. Lord said that he believed that such policies set the individual who was hired up to fail.

Hanson, who attended the meeting when his hiring was announced on Aug. 13, was scheduled to assume his new position on Sept. 10.

While councilors didn’t state what caused Hanson’s decision to rescind his application, several wondered if public opinion about the policy change was part of it.

Jenkins said that he “hoped” that wasn’t the reason.

The council will host an emergency meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss how to move forward.

Cathy O’Leary, the longtime town clerk, remains interim town manager.

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