MACHIAS, Maine — The Washington County commissioners Thursday afternoon formally hired current Machias Town Manager Betsy Fitzgerald as county manager.
Fitzgerald, who said she is excited and energized by the new challenge, said the details of her contract with the county have not been ironed out. The Machias Board of Selectmen has been notified of her leaving and will deal with the issue of searching for a new manager at their next meeting.
The commissioners’ chairman, Chris Gardner, said the pool of candidates was strong but the commissioners felt they “found what we were looking for right here” without an extensive search outside of Washington County.
He praised Fitzgerald’s local knowledge and said her service last year on the county budget committee gives her a close-up, working knowledge of the county budget.
“She also knows nearly every department head,” he said. “She went to high school with half of them.”
Fitzgerald, 60, became manager of Machias in 2006 after working as a code enforcement officer for Vassalboro and Benton.
Fitzgerald grew up in Machiasport and graduated from Washington Academy in 1966 and the University of Maine at Machias in 1970. Two years of teaching were followed by 33 years teaching at Erskine Academy, Maine’s second-largest public-private school, in South China near Augusta.
She retired in 2005 and turned to code enforcement work.
She also obtained a master’s degree in public policy through the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine in 1990.
Fitzgerald succeeds Linda Pagels-Wentworth, who resigned last month to become town manager of Baileyville.
In other business Thursday, the commissioners accepted the loan and grant form that applicants will use within a tax increment financing district in the county’s unorganized territories.
The TIF district was created in concert with the development of the Stetson I and II wind power projects near Danforth. Those projects capture money that will be used to assist businesses and organizations that create jobs in the UTs over the next 30 years. The funds are estimated to be $3.75 million and are available for eco-nomic development projects in 34 Washington County UTs.
The Sunrise County Economic Development Council will be administering the program.
The program includes $25,000 a year for nature-based tourism grants, $25,000 a year as the county’s match for economic development grant programs, $25,000 a year for economic development planning, up to $30,000 a year for a commercial revolving loan fund and a capital project fund at the discretion of the commissioners.
Gardner explained Thursday that the application form was a working document. “We are not excluding anyone from this process,” he said. Gardner said that if the form is found to be flawed, it would be amended immediately.
Commissioner Kevin Shorey said that if the document was too detailed, it could actually inadvertently exclude a business from participating.
The commissioners also set the 2010 county tax rate at 0.001194013 per $1 of valuation. Gardner said this would raise $4.2 million for county expenses.