Becky Hapgood has been hired as town manager of China. Hapgood, who served 26 years in the town clerk’s office, is shown Wednesday at the town office. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

After spending the last 26 years serving as the clerk for the town of China, Becky Hapgood felt that transitioning into the role of town manager was par for the course.

On July 19, Hapgood succeeded Dennis Heath, who served as town manager just shy of two years. Heath stepped down from the position so he and his wife could return to Oklahoma to be closer to their aging parents.

Hapgood, 50, first started as town clerk in February 1994 and said that taking on the role of town manager felt like a natural progression in her career.

“I’m familiar with a lot of things that the manager is responsible for,” Hapgood said during a phone interview Monday. “I thought it was a good next step and would be able to challenge me as I go forward in the next chapter of my life.”

Hapgood praised her predecessor, who came to the job as the unanimous choice of the Board of Selectmen in July 2018 and brought ideas to better serve the community better. One idea included going before a legislative committee to argue that small towns such as China should not collect personal property or business incentive taxes in an effort to give businesses an incentive to settle in the town.

“Dennis was fantastic,” Hapgood said. “He wanted to equip us at the town office with the tools to be able to prosper. We’re going to miss him. He was a great leader. He really cared about the community, and we are disappointed to see him go. “

Hapgood will not only succeed Heath as town manager but will take over his roles as treasurer, tax collector, road commissioner, overseer of the poor, Civil Emergency Preparedness director and public access officer.

Hapgood, who grew up in China and stayed there, said she’s most excited about being able to continue serving the community she loves so much.

Becky Hapgood has been hired as town manager of China. Hapgood, who served 26 years in the town clerk’s office, is shown Wednesday at the town office. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

I’m excited to be able to spend time reaching out to residents and seeing what their needs are,” Hapgood said. “Helping businesses in our community grow and prosper, finding ways to solve some issues. My goal is to serve the town, and I’ve always put out there that I’m always available 24/7, 365 days of the year and that won’t change.”

She is also aware that divisions can occur within communities. Such was the case with Heath and the three fire companies over stipends that ended up being resolved in a compromise.

“I know in this profession you can’t always please everyone,” she said, “but I’m looking forward to the challenges that will come about … trying to make sure that we protect the town, but we also help the residents as well.” 

Over the course of Hapgood’s career she has worked with three town managers and has received local and statewide recognition for her excellence as a town clerk.

Hapgood has been certified a lifetime clerk by the Maine Town and City Clerks’ Association. She was twice named Maine’s Town Clerk of the Year, in 2015 and 2020. She was also honored by her fellow town employees and Heath last February when they celebrated her 25th year anniversary working for the town.

With the continuing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and a general election scheduled in November, Hapgood faces immediate challenges as she transitions into her new role as manager, and she said that she wants residents to know that she’s always working for the best interest of the town.

“I want people to understand that I’ve always had the attitude of wanting to be the best town office out there because I truly think that we want to be the best town out there,” Hapgood said.

“We want to help people, and we know we can’t always resolve issues the way people want them to be resolved,” she said. “But I think as long as we’re making strides to help them resolve issues, then that’s what matters. That’s what we’re here for, and we really do pride ourselves in our work.” 

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