WALDOBORO, Maine — One week after townspeople passed the fiscal year 2014 municipal budget on their third try at the ballot box, Waldoboro Town Manager John Spear submitted his resignation on Tuesday.
Spear will work his last day on the job on Dec. 13. He will then become administrative assistant to the Board of Selectmen in South Thomaston, his hometown.
Waldoboro selectmen hired former state Rep. Wesley Richardson of Warren to serve as interim town manager, the Lincoln County News reported.
“It’s five minutes, 19 seconds from my home,” Spear told the Bangor Daily News Thursday of his new position. “And it’s a four-day-a-week position, in a small town.”
Spear, who has served as selectman in South Thomaston “on and off for more than 10 years,” said that after the current administrative assistant retired, taking the job “was like one of those things where you look down, something’s on the ground, and you have to pick it up.”
Despite a sense of pride in bridging “a lack of trust” in the community, Spear acknowledged that he hopes his new position will be “less stressful.”
Waldoboro, he said, “is certainly an interesting, larger community. There are some complicated issues, but I think we’ve made a lot of progress. I feel pretty good. There was a high degree of divisiveness and a lack of trust, but I think I have done a lot to bridge that during my tenure — not that it’s been totally my doing.”
The town’s referendum budget process has been “a battle” for a couple of years, Spear said. Last year, voters passed the budget in a second referendum, and in 2011, nine residents filed suit against the town after selectmen decided to hold a town meeting in July 2011 to act on budget articles rejected at a June referendum. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that state law leaves to selectmen discretion whether the budget articles should be decided by referendum or at a town meeting
This year’s budget failed in two referendum votes before winning passage in a third vote earlier this month — “a long protracted process,” he said. “I think it’s damaging to employee morale, and it certainly drains — well, it takes an inordinate amount of staff time and energy.”
But Spear said he’s proud of restoring “a level of trust with the public,” and of negotiating with the police and public works departments the first contracts after they voted to unionize.
“I’m pretty proud of that,” he said. “That was a lot of work and a lot of energy.”
Spear offered one final piece of advice for the town: “The budget process they have here … I think they need to take a good, hard look at that.”