Small town office managers in Maine.
These one man or woman municipal rural Maine offices look after their small communities. You could get a call from Marge who reminds you the vehicle registration on your snow plow truck expired this week. But not to worry, because she’ll be in the local town office Saturday morning and will have all the paperwork ready for you. Or I’ve seen a small town office manager make a call that was overheard while I was studying tax maps or gleaning property information. Fran told the taxpayer on the other end of the phone that she would drop off the fishing hunting combination license on her way home tonight. That’s door to door service neighbor to neighbor grass roots style.
Like a mother hen that keeps the chicks in line. Or a border collie who shepherds the lambs on a small Maine farmstead. The small town managers in Maine are a special breed. Fiercely dedicated to their small township that is just a dot on the Maine map. These unsung heroes single handedly struggle to keep up with the heavy paperwork load of new regulations. To keep it all straight and coach the revolving door of selectmen who step up to take their turn in community service.
Small town office managers in Maine, some of them opt to raise and wave the white flag.
To surrender and come out into the daylight from small patched together office with raised hands in the air. Too much expense, too little revenue to keep the small Maine town identity alive and vibrant. More on deorganization of small Maine towns.
If the small town in Maine can’t keep the municipality structure held together, instead of deorganization, joining forces with a larger community happens.
For example, take the small township of Hersey and Moro Plantation in Aroostook County. The communities hire the services of Patten Maine who is already open for business. And two more property taxation books get A to Z set up and any expenditures for raising or spending money are handled through the town of Patten.
The small Maine communities don’t lose their identity and duplication of municipal services costs are avoiding linking up in a regional approach to town government.
I remember Anna Schools, one neat small town office manager in Maine, in the community of Littleton. With Millie the cat soaking up the sun while napping, Anna with her hair in curlers and watering the Christmas cactus says hello. As I dropped by for a tax card copy or to check up on a building permit from the Littleton ME planning board. Often there was no need to look up an address for a property owner. Because Anna would smile, clear her throat and recite the address from her keen memory.
Single handedly, Anna kept the books, collected the real estate property taxes.
Wrote out the checks for school tuition, filling potholes and to keep the winter roads clear of snow. Bids put out for town services were handled by Anna and during weekend selectmen board meetings.
A discount on your property taxes for early payment was figured by Anna too.
To avoid tax anticipation loans taken out to keep things financially afloat. Small town office managers in Maine, Anna went asked when are you going to get a computer. Her pause, then clearing of her throat before speaking with a smile response? “I am the computer”. She was like the Mother Goose for entire six by six mile Maine township.
In Drew Plantation, one man, in his 80’s makes that community hum.
But Drew Plantation is one heart beat away from deorgnization. When all the towns around you are too small or already gone the deorgination route, you feel pretty much on your own with few options. Bancroft next door to Drew Plantation already let’s the County government run the numbers and bid out the services.
Drew Plantation has a population of around 45 souls last head count. So not exactly a long line of public servant community minded folks to pass the baton to and carry on town government traditions. Small Maine towns are your best sized communities to invest in, for the intimate connection and no disconnect.
The small town office managers in Maine.
There are over 400 of them and dwindling numbers of Maine town office. The town manager of Drew Plantation, the head selectmen keeps the home fires going… literally build a wood stove blaze to prepare for the office use. But most of what happens is right in a corner of his living room. His wife helps too and like a big family, the duties are shared. The animal control office is at this number if you spot a dog at large chasing a white tail deer.
You need a fire permit to get rid of that brush pile that is getting taller behind your home?
Call Snapper at this number but remember. All these auxiliary town leaders have full time jobs doing something else forty or more hours a week. Much of what happens in a small town in Maine is “managed” at night or on weekends. On the fly with quick calls, text messages or emails. Sent to wherever they have their real source of household income to pay the bills, their own small Maine town property taxed homesteads.
In a city, you pay to attend an event. Small Maine towns are different because you step up to volunteer to put on the yearly event.
Everything is home grown and covered dish pot luck public supper like approached because money to hire it all done is just not an option. Plus it is so much more rewarding to be personally involved in a community happening. You miss all the fun planning and improving the event and you get the kids involved, the shut ins are not forgotten either in small rural Maine towns. The collective creative juices get poured into what’s going on through out the year. From the spring canoe race or the 4th of July celebration to the annual Christmas caroling.
Often the small Maine town event is handled by several who wear many hats. The local churches all have a part and so do the school children, the little league team coach. Retired folks especially with the lifetime experience who may be seasonal snow birds but that have time to pitch in to add to the community events. In the small town office, the usually one person staff that’s me, myself, I … the town manager you sense how busy he or she is.
Fielding non stop ringing phone calls, with one ear on the police and fire scanner to see if a call comes in for a grass fire on the south end of town.
Licensing vehicles, issuing marriage licenses and copies of death certificates, tags for your dog and a stick for your boat or snowmobile. Fire burning permit for the old house torching on purpose Saturday or the EMS training in the school gym coordination.
Many small Maine towns have a one or two room office or use just a small corner of a large vacant former school house.
The local school building no longer needed due to consolidation when the educational census dropped too low to cover the education expenses.
In the Haynesville ME town office you see lots of boxes and sometimes smell everything from crayfish to produce odors. Free food to help subsidize the local grocery costs mean the small, cramped multi purpose town office is used for a community food pantry.
In small rural towns, folks pray and worry about the community members of all ages.
There is strong connection and sense of caring you just don’t feel in large urban population centers. Small groups on ZOOM meetings are much more rewarding and productive than large ones.. same dynamic. And because you work with Tom and Sue on so many local community events and serve on the same boards, the small group “knows” each other personally.
It is not uncommon to hear the small town manager asking Bob as he licenses his boat and trailer how his mom is doing after her surgery.
Or when is little league starting up so I can post it on the town’s social media channels Zeke? Zeke and his brother in law Stanley are the little league commissioners for the border league youth ball team. The one that needs uniforms, practice sessions and the dug outs painted this weekend heading into another baseball season. Nothing done for the money. Because the salary is purely the goodwill your volunteering provides the town and your own sense of purpose and inner well being.
Fundraisers are big to create the money raised locally at public suppers of community breakfasts.
From car washes to candy sales to raffles on a rifle. Or something like a snow sled or four wheeler or a tank of heating oil, a cord of seasoned fire wood. Somehow, the funds are raised writing grants. With well organized haunted hayrides or from Christmas tree sales to pull off funding another community event.
Veterans who served from the small town are remember dead or alive with monuments.
Fishing derbies, canoe races, hunter contests. Christmas parties down at the sled club or fish and game or American Legion or one of the local church worship flavor locations. There is much that goes on behind the small communities. The graveyards are kept mowed. The grounds maintained in respect of past community members buried in the small Maine town cemetery plots.
Small town office managers in Maine, they have a big responsibility.
They and all the volunteers that work hard behind the scenes are a special breed. Wanting no attention for themselves, but all about pride and respect for their home town of whatever else in Maine.
Carrying on tradition, enjoying growing up in the small Maine town pushes them into stepping up and performing a service.
Contributing, making the small Maine town the special place each one is because in main part because of the people who live, work, play there.
Taking turns at different roles in the Maine small town leadership of all the departments.
Holding down two, three or more “titles” because it’s efficient and not a lot of folks stepping up to replace them after their term ends. Setting up and running voting booths during election day.
Volunteering on the fire department and going out on calls to help their community. Creating the parks and recreational programs, setting up town signs, supporting the school children, veterans and elderly needs.
Just working together behind the scenes for the greater good. Time that most have no idea about how long it takes to pull it off consistently and often single handely.
The small town office managers in Maine are the cheerleaders to put the community on the map.
To educate property taxpayers about homestead, veterans or tree growth property tax reduction programs. Finding a community block grant for a failed septic system that the local taxpayer can not afford to replace.
To organize the locals to tackle the new roof the elderly widow needs to stay in her own home.
And avoid the forced move to an assisted living facility many townships away from her community.
The small town manager in Maine gets visits and phone calls or emails from folks doing ancestry searches and is a town historian.
She or he helps the school alumni plan reunion events or guides the who to call for what and where. Quickly reciting contact name and numbers as the local insider expert chamber of commerce welcome wagon operator.
They have a very big job and juggle many balls, wear many hats. Thank you for sticking around, reading this blog post on the very important role small town office managers in Maine play.