Erica LaCroix, the new town manager for Winslow, sits in her office Friday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

WINSLOW — As Winslow’s new town manager, Erica LaCroix is always listening. On her first day on the job last week, an upset citizen requested a meeting about a delicate situation.

In a busy schedule filled with a crash course in Winslow’s history, filing paperwork and getting to know the residents as well as the ins and outs of her new position, LaCroix took time for an person’s issue. That, she said, is what her job is truly about.

“Being able to spend time talking to that individual, working through his issue, just taking the time to listen to them,” LaCroix said, “that was kinda my very first day being thrown into the fire moment.”

A Mount Vernon native, the 49-year-old LaCroix took over for Mike Heavener, who retired this summer after 14 years on the job. After a negative coronavirus test, LaCroix started Oct. 15 and reflected on her experiences on the job in an interview Friday morning.

“Of course, it’s been a whirlwind,” LaCroix said. “There’s a lot of activity going on, and I think things have gone well under the interim leadership, but there is still a lot to learn.”

Winslow Public Works Director Paul Fongemie served as the interim town manager and helped with the selection process in which LaCroix emerged from a pool of 30 candidates. LaCroix is Winslow’s first female town manager.

Erica LaCroix, the new town manager for Winslow, sits in her office Friday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

After graduating from Maranacook Community High School in Readfield, LaCroix completed undergraduate studies at Michigan State University. After obtaining her Bachelor of Science degree in animal science, she got a master’s of public administration from Norwich University.

LaCroix recently returned to Maine after living in Woodstock, Georgia. She moved to Winslow with her 15-year-old son, Dylan, and 12-year-old daughter, Elisabeth. They also have two cats, two dogs and a fish. “The van was full,” LaCroix said.

The family arrived Oct. 9 and the children are currently attending online school through the state of Georgia, but will soon enroll in Winslow Public Schools.

LaCroix has spent the majority of her time meeting with individual department heads and spending time talking to the Winslow Town Council and town attorney William Lee. One of those department heads is new, the police chief. Former Newport Chief Leonard Macdaid started full-time Friday.

LaCroix has also fielded a bevy of phone calls about absentee voting and the Lee and Marie streets rezoning saga. A potential rezoning of a parcel of land off Lee and Marie streets from residential neighborhood to mixed-zone use was postponed last meeting, which LaCroix attended but was not working yet.

However, she’s met or spoken with members of the council, Lee, Code Enforcement Officer Adam Bradstreet and residents with a goal of narrowing down the issue.

“I wanted to get down to the primary concerns,” LaCroix said. “People tend to talk, and a lot of emotion comes out. You need to get down to what are the one or two really root concerns that you have so we can try and look at those.”

The final decision is in the hands of Winslow’s Town Council. There is a special council meeting slated for 7 p.m. Thursday. However, action will not be taken until the regularly scheduled Nov. 9 meeting, because the law states a contract rezoning must be 13 days in advance of the meeting. The most recent council meeting was Oct. 13.

LaCroix has worked as an administrator in maintenance and operations, with budgets and other public works tasks. LaCroix worked for 18 years as a manager and administrator with the City of Lansing, Michigan; as a business analyst for the Virginia Department of Transportation; the chief of administration for the Chesterfield, Virginia, County Sheriff’s Office and as a business office manager for Otis Wood Agency in Canton, Georgia. LaCroix also runs a blog called Tips for Recycling, which is about green living.

LaCroix said her experience working as an administrator in law enforcement has helped her transition to the town manager position. Many of her other positions dealt with budgets, so LaCroix feels well-equipped.

“Understanding you’re going to get a lot of concerns from citizens that you have to address. You have to address them respectfully and try to understand where they’re coming from, because that’s your job,” LaCroix said. “It doesn’t really matter if you don’t necessarily agree. You still have to take the time to listen to those concerns.”

“Those particular positions that I’ve held in the past have given me a lot more time to deal directly with the public on concerns,” LaCroix added.

The coronavirus pandemic and upcoming Nov. 3 election also require LaCroix’s involvement. Although Winslow Town Clerk and Registrar of Voters Lisa Gilliam and Human Resources/Finance Director Tanya Groce are running the majority of the election process, LaCroix doesn’t have a direct role in the election.

However, she’s championing voter safety, both with coronavirus safety and ballot safety. She is also coordinating between the police department and town office to ensure a smooth election.

“Social media has a lot of rumbling these days,” LaCroix said. “People are on edge, and we just want to make sure that everyone feels secure, that there’s not going to be any kind of voter intimidation and that boundaries are going to be maintained with how many feet candidates must stand away when people are polling, and observers.”

Once things settle down, LaCroix looks forward to understanding what makes the town of Winslow move and shake, and getting to know the citizens and businesses in the town.

“I’m really happy to be here,” LaCroix said. “I’m looking forward to getting out around in the town and get a feel for the culture.”

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