Earl Kingsbury, current director of the Augusta Civic Center, and Margaret Noel, current deputy director of the civic center,  in front of the Elvis Presley plaque April 23 at the Civic Center lobby. Recently Kingsbury was hired as Augusta’s new director of community services, and Noel will replace him as director of the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — Earl Kingsbury and Margaret Noel — whose appointments as director of community services and director of the Augusta Civic Center, respectively, were confirmed unanimously by city councilors Thursday. Now they have their work cut out for them.

For Noel, an Augusta native who previously worked five years as the deputy director of the Augusta Civic Center, the likely biggest challenge will be guiding the city-0wned auditorium and conference center out of the financial woes brought upon by the coronavirus pandemic. Revenues for the facility dropped significantly when coronavirus restrictions led to the cancellation of most large public gatherings.

A big challenge facing Kingsbury, who previously served as director of the civic center, can currently be found throughout the city — browntail moth caterpillars. The caterpillars are covering light poles and buildings and laying eggs. During their lifecycle, they leave behind hairs that can cause severe rashes and breathing problems in people who encounter them.

Kingsbury and Noel had taken on their new jobs already, but only on an interim basis to see if they were good fits. Councilors confirmed City Manager William Bridgeo’s permanent appointments Thursday night.

“I’m looking at what you two are going to do and it’s going to be awesome,” said Ward 4 City Councilor Eric Lind. “You’ve both got great pasts but are going to have better futures. I’m really pleased. Obviously we were worried about the two jobs, but it’s no worry now.”

Ward 3 Councilor Michael Michaud noted the winged, irritating challenge awaiting Kingsbury that has become a widespread problem across the state. Kingsbury’s oversight of city operations includes parks and other public areas.

“I went by a building today that usually is blue, but today it was white,” from being covered by so many of browntail moths, Michaud said. “I’ve never seen so many little white moths in my entire life. So you’ve got your hands full, just with that little issue. So make me proud.”

Kingsbury said he’s already learned “more than I ever wanted to learn” about browntail moths, and said the city would work to try to address the problem this fall. He said a big part of that will be an educational campaign on how residents can help fight back the bothersome creatures. And Kingsbury warned what people see on light poles and attached to buildings is only a hint at the full scope of them.

“So the moths you’re seeing right now, 90% of those are predominantly male moths,” he said. “The female moths are out laying eggs. The scary part of that is there are just as many female moths laying eggs as there are male months that you’ve seen.

“So we do have our work cut out for us this fall,” Kingsbury added. “It’s going to take an entire community to try to fight this.”

Mayor David Rollins said he first met Noel when she was helping prepare, sanitize and maintain the Augusta Civic Center where, during a large part of the coronavirus pandemic, city councilors moved their meetings so they could spread out over a larger space. For a time that was nearly the only use of the civic center, as numerous conferences and other public gatherings scheduled to take place there were canceled as state mandates, meant to help control the spread of COVID-19, banned most public gatherings.

Noel has said she’s up to the challenge of leading the center out of the pandemic-related financial dark days, noting even during the later stages of the pandemic, the civic center was used as, and received revenue from, a MaineGeneral vaccination site, and as a temporary home to the state Legislature.

Noel said she looks forward to the facility opening up more and more, and for groups that have met there in the past to return.

Kingsbury, according to Director of Human Resources and Assistant City Manager Susan Robertson, will be paid a salary of $105,000, while Noel will be paid $93,000.

The pair of staff moves were made in response to the April 30 retirement of Leif Dahlin, longtime community services director.

At-Large Councilor Heather Pouliot said she was excited the city was able to hire from within and by the quality of its employees.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: