CLINTON — When a new town manager was hired late last month, he became the eighth person to hold the position within an 11-year span.
Warren Hatch, 58, is the latest in a relatively long list of recent town managers in a community that has had a rocky relationship with the post.
For several years in the late 1990s, the town operated without a manager after voters eliminated the position altogether. It was reinstated in 1999.
The Board of Selectmen approved Hatch, an Augusta resident, unanimously for the job on Dec. 28. On Friday, he completed his first week at his new desk.
“It’s been a great start,” he said during a telephone interview.
Hatch spent the first few days getting familiar with the town budget and meeting with department heads in the town of 3,400 residents.
Hatch has been involved in municipal government since 1993, when he served two years as town manager in Phippsburg. Since then, he has been town manager in Damariscotta for eight years, Bowdoinham for four years and Durham for two years. Most recently, he served for 10 months as interim town manager in Newburgh.
Clinton is a good fit, he said.
“It’s a nice, small town, and it’s within the range of what I’ve been doing for management.”
Hatch replaces Aaron Chrostowsky, who announced his resignation in mid-October after having served for nearly two years. Chrostowsky wouldn’t elaborate at the time on his reasons for leaving, but his resignation letter hinted at strife within the Town Office.
“I have come to the conclusion that the Board of Selectmen and myself can no longer agree on a management style,” Chrostowsky wrote.
Clinton’s town manager position has been a long-standing source of debate.
Voters cut the position’s salary from $32,000 to $25,000 in 1997, when Ronnie Belanger had held the job for nearly two years. Belanger left and voters soon eliminated the post in favor of a new position — administrative assistant to the Board of Selectmen. Before that, the town had operated with a town manager since the 1940s.
The new administrative assistant was Julieann Lancaster, who had worked under Belanger. On July 1, 1998, a year after Lancaster was hired, the town administration ground to a halt when nine people — holding all of Clinton’s Town Office positions — announced their resignations, as did a selectman and the four-member police force. Among them was Lancaster.
Without a treasurer or tax collector, town government shut down. The town was unable to collect taxes, register automobiles, pay bills or pay other employees.
Next, Sharon Perry, of Ellsworth, temporarily filled the roles of administrative assistant, town clerk, tax collector, treasurer, road commissioner, general assistance administrator and registrar of voters. When Perry’s contract expired in the fall of 1998, Christina Therrien was hired as administrative assistant.
In June 1999, voters re-created the town manager position and Therrien was picked for the job one year later.
Terrien resigned in October 2001. Since then, the position has been held by Michelle Flewelling (interim), Keith Trefethen, D. Dwight Dogherty (interim), Dale Morris, Jim Rhodes, Chrostowsky and Hatch.
Hatch said he’s not concerned about the turnover.
“I look forward to being here for as long as possible. I always look for the long term,” he said.
Jeffrey Towne, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, did not return a reporter’s phone call.
Ben McCanna — 861-9239