BELFAST, Maine — There’s a shakeup at city hall, with longtime municipal employee and City Clerk Denise Beckett resigning this week and City Manager Joe Slocum getting support from city councilors to reorganize the offices he called Belfast’s “family room.”
Beckett submitted her resignation in May, along with Deputy Clerk, Assistant Treasurer Lynn Farrar and Deputy Clerk Denise Hylton. Altogether, half of the employees who work in the clerk and treasurer offices have resigned.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Mayor Walter Ash said Thursday. “The elections are coming right up. That’s a real big deal.”
The outgoing city clerk stayed on in the position to finish the June primary elections and then agreed to keep working until the city found a replacement. Amy Flood, a former branch manager at Downeast Credit Union, will start as the new clerk on Monday.
Beckett said that she was leaving in part because of “communication problems” at city hall. Farrar, who has left already, and Hylton resigned in order to pursue other ventures, other city employees said. Municipal officials continue to seek their replacements.
“I’ve accomplished a lot, and gained a wealth of experiences,” Beckett said Thursday, her last work day. “It’s time to move on.”
She started working for Belfast in 1999 as a “floater,” an employee who moved between departments. Since then she has served as an administrative assistant to two city managers — Terry St. Peter and Slocum — and became the clerk in 2010.
Though Beckett connected her resignation to communication problems throughout city hall, Ash said he believed the wave of resignations came about because of employee conflicts within the two departments.
“I guess they just couldn’t get along,” the mayor said. “I wish them the best, every one of them.”
Slocum was on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment on the personnel changes. But in his Friday, Aug. 1, manager’s report, he explained a reorganization proposal he had in mind for the city clerk’s and city treasurer’s offices, located together on the ground floor of city hall.
“When a department head resigns, it’s a good time to re-evaluate the organizational structure in the office,” he wrote. “The first floor to this building is the city’s family room and people deserve to have the best and warmest service they can get when they arrive here. They need to be able to see themselves and feel comfortable, understood, helped and a part of this wonderful community.”
Beckett said customer service has been a high priority for her during her years as clerk.
“This is the public floor, no doubt about it,” she said. “Ninety-eight percent of the job is the customer. You have to have great customer service.”
Slocum suggested in his manager’s report that the clerk’s office oversee all counter services, and that the treasurer’s office staff be released from this work, so that employees there can focus on finances. Additionally, he would like to take a position that now splits time between the offices and make that person a full-time assistant to the city treasurer and finance director.
“I am also going to ask that the council consider allowing us to close the office every Wednesday from 3:30 p.m. on so that we can meet and work on the best process and customer service that we can provide,” he wrote in the report. “It is very challenging for a group of people to work according to solid professional standards when there is never any time available for them to meet and work on these things.”
Slocum also wants to shift the responsibility for accounts payable from the clerk’s office to the treasurer’s office.
“In my tenure, I’d like to have experienced some of the relief from the workload,” Beckett told the BDN in response to the reorganization proposal. “If it works.”
City Councilors on Tuesday gave their informal support to the reorganization and for a three month trial period for the early Wednesday closures, according to Administrative Assistant Manda Cushman.