MILLINOCKET, Maine — Town Council Chairman John Davis resigned effective Thursday to become Frenchville’s new town manager, officials said.
Davis, 58, had written a letter of resignation that the Town Council was due to accept at its 4:30 p.m. meeting. He said the decision to leave was not easily made.
“We have a lot of things going on there in Millinocket that I would have liked to have seen through,” Davis said Thursday. “They are perfectly capable, they can do it without me but I would have liked to have stayed.”
The Frenchville Board of Selectmen voted 4-0 on Monday to accept Davis earlier this week, said Percy Thibeault, the board’s chairman.
“He had the qualifications that we were looking for,” Thibeault said.
The new job represents the culmination of years of work for Davis. He started studying government management in 2004 after he was laid off from East Millinocket’s mill, the same year he became the council’s chairman.
He returned to the mill in 2006 and attended school intermittently until he was laid off again in 2011. Davis has a bachelor’s degree in public administration from the University of Maine at Augusta and is a class shy of a minor in business administration, he said.
Millinocket Town Manager Peggy Daigle and Councilor Michael Madore said Davis provided solid leadership. Davis was chairman from November 2004 to November 2005 and was re-elected to the council in November 2009.
“He was a consummate councilor in the way that he handled his responsibilities,” Madore said. “John and I started out as kids in Little League and he has always been a leader.”
“It takes a lot of guts to go ahead and return to school, especially with the career that he has chosen,” Madore added. “Whoever ends up being chairman is going to have big shoes to fill.”
Davis leaves Millinocket for Frenchville amid unprecedented strife. Millinocket’s population, coffers and financial aid from the state have shrunk considerably over the last several years.
The town government recently secured a $1 million tax anticipation note that ended a fiscal crisis caused by a lack of cash that could have forced a bankruptcy declaration.
Millinocket has record numbers of tax liens and property foreclosures created by its reliance on a declining forest products industry and inability to create significant savings with its neighboring towns or to diversify its economy. School officials have said that town schools must develop sustaining revenues from efforts to recruit Chinese students or the school system might fold.
The town’s best remaining hopes rely on its leaders’ ability to create meaningful revenues or savings in town government, town schools, with its neighboring towns and with Cate Street Capital’s plans to install the first of several torrefied wood machines at the Katahdin Avenue paper mill site, Davis said.
“It is all according to what happens with this torrefied wood thing. That is not going to solve all problems, but it will help, especially if it brings in a few other businesses as well,” Davis said. “They have to have something. If you are just going to have tourism it is going to be tough, and there’s still a lot of opposition to the national park proposal.”
“They have to get some manufacturing industries in there and that is hard to do,” he added.