EASTPORT, Maine — Larry Post began his first day as city manager of Eastport on Monday with his office right next to the front entry of city hall and his door wide open.
”I want the people of Eastport to know I am always accessible,” Post said. “I am really looking forward to being a part of the community.”
Post, 60, has spent most of his working life in the municipal arena: 30 years as town manager in St. Albans, two years as Hartland’s town manager and two years as county administrator, all in Somerset County. Post resigned last December from his county position, citing differences in perception of management with Somerset County Commissioners.
But taking the reins of a coastal community has him excited and re-energized, he said Monday.
“Eastport is an exciting place to be,” he said. “There is such a fine quality of life here.”
Eastport has a winter population of about 1,300 but that easily doubles in the summer season.
Beyond the beauty of place, it is the economic possibilities of Eastport that intrigue Post, who was selected from among 25 candidates seeking to succeed Eastport City Manager Jon Southern, 40. Citing “burnout,” Southern opted not to have his contract renewed.
“Eastport is poised to do great things,” Post said. Ticking off some of the recent expansions and additions — the port of Eastport, hydropower companies, a major boat builder and other companies currently looking to locate in Eastport — Post said the infrastructure is in place for the city to become a major hub for both boat building and alternative energy, specifically hydropower, leveraging Eastport’s position as the closest port to Europe and the deepest natural port on the east coast.
“We can look at Eastport’s location as both an asset and a liability,” he said. “People and businesses that locate here really want to come here, rather than the type of willy nilly development you see in some other places. As we court new companies to think of moving here, we also want their families.”
But work continues on infrastructure improvements, he said, pointing out that this week, part of the town’s huge pier is cordoned off as city officials assess major damage.
“There has been severe undermining of the older section of the pier,” Post said, indicating that the damage was caused by time, the action of the 22-foot tides in Passamaquoddy Bay and the effect of salt water. The structure not only acts as a loading platform for commercial vessels but is a breakwater to protect fishing boats, pleasure crafts and U.S. Coast Guard boats in the harbor.
Post said no estimate of damage repairs was available yet.
“We are still assessing the full extent of the damage and initiating a temporary fix,” Post said.
The city also is completing a sewer system upgrade, which has been accomplished in stages, and Post said improving the town’s financial picture, specifically growing the fund balance, will be a priority.
Post said expansion at the airport, specifically to include some sort of seasonal shuttle service, would make Eastport even more attractive.
“Managing a city versus a town or county is not really all that different,” he said. “In one sense it is very much like running a business. But, in another sense, it is not. Businesses don’t have to deal with the all the governmental restrictions placed on city administration. A city runs more on process than a business.”
Post said the basics are the same. The city needs what it needs, and it costs what it costs.
“You just try to keep chaos from descending,” he joked.
Post said his first few weeks will be concentrated on creating the 2013-2014 municipal budget.
He said his wife, Bonnie, will be joining him soon, and he has already rented a residence in Eastport. “This is such an ideal coastal location, which is such a plus for me — to be working in such a naturally beautiful location. People here have been wonderful to me, very accepting and welcoming.”