BLUE HILL, Maine — A government practice that could stretch as far back back to the town’s founding 254 years ago ended with the hiring of a town administrator who began work on Monday.
Shawna Ambrose, 37, of Blue Hill was promoted from the deputy town clerk’s position after serving in it for about a year. The three-member Board of Selectmen opted to hire her last month, and she agreed to a one-year contract under which she will be paid $55,000. She is the first person in the history of the town to hold the position of town administrator, the three-member board said Monday.
Blue Hill was likely one of the few towns left in Maine whose town government and government staff were managed directly by selectmen serving regular hours most every day of the work week at their town office. That practice has gone on for at least 25 years, board members said.
The board opted to pursue hiring a new administrator in April with the retirement of longtime Selectman Jim Schatz, who had served on the board for 24 years. Residents approved the creation of the position during a town meeting that month.
Having part-time selectmen in effect directly overseeing the town’s full-time workers was antiquated, and the board has to get away from doing “administrative details” and concentrate more on planning, Selectwoman Ellen Best said.
Those details “were limiting the time that you could put into maybe some bigger-picture issues that might have been the reason that you ran for office,” Best said.
The board voted to hire Ambrose after receiving 14 applications and guidance from the Maine Municipal Association. Board members felt that Ambrose’s familiarity with the town’s present operations made her the best candidate.
“She is smart, learns quickly, has great initiative and a great work ethic, and she knows our town,” board Chairman Vaughn Leach said. “We were aware that she has skills that were underutilized in her present position.”
Besides managing the town’s staff, Ambrose said she hopes to write grants for the town that will help it develop its shoreline and harbor.