Penquis CEO of 27 years announces he will retire this summer

Posted Jan. 02, 2014, at 5:36 p.m.
Charlie Newton
Courtesy of Penquis
Charlie Newton

BANGOR, Maine — The president and chief executive officer of Penquis announced he plans to retire this summer, 27 years after taking the helm of the social service agency.

Charlie Newton, 66, made his plans known Thursday in a brief letter to the organization.

“The time has come for me to retire from Penquis,” Newton wrote. “Pending the appointment of a new CEO, I expect that my last day with Penquis will be June 17.”

Newton said his decision resulted from discussions this year with the Penquis board. They started out talking about succession plans in the event of an emergency, and that evolved into talks about the future of the organization and its leadership, according to Newton.

“In all honesty, I’ve gotten beyond the mandatory age of 65 and did an assessment of my energy level,” he said, adding that “being vibrant is hard to maintain over time.”

He said he decided to make way for a new leader for the organization, which serves more than 30,000 low- and moderate-income Mainers in Penobscot, Piscataquis and Knox Counties.

Newton joined Penquis — then called Penquis Community Action Program — in 1987, when the organization was celebrating its 20th year. At the time, Newton said, Penquis was having financial and public relations challenges.

During his tenure, the longest in the organization’s history, Penquis established programs including the Penquis Law Project, which provides legal aid to victims of domestic violence; built 286 units of elderly and family housing in a dozen communities; merged with the Coastal Community Action Program; and, more recently, won its bid to serve as a broker for MaineCare nonemergency medical transportation.

Today, Penquis has a staff of 325 and an annual budget of $25 million.

“We’ve grown the organization pretty successfully and diversified the number of opportunities we offer our clients,” Newton said.

Newton said he doesn’t plan on remaining active in Penquis. Instead, he plans on traveling with his wife, fixing up his house, fishing and doing some consulting work.

“Charlie has been the steady hand at the helm,” said Tom Lizotte, chairman of the Penquis Board of Directors, in a Thursday news release. “His insight and experience, along with his patient and calm demeanor, inspires confidence in his leadership among his staff and the board of directors. Charlie has the rare ability to see around the corner and anticipate change, which has allowed the organization to respond proactively and quickly to the funding challenges faced by so many organizations today.”

When asked what he would like to see from Penquis in the future, Newton said, “I would hope that it would continue to be a very vibrant provider of social services, helping low- and moderate-income families become self-sufficient and overcome the bumps in their lives.”

The board will begin a search for a new president and CEO in the near future and hopes to appoint a new leader by early June.

“I appreciate the patience and support you have given me over the past 27 years,” Newton wrote in his resignation letter. “We have done important work together and I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished.”

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