RUMFORD — A week after Town Manager Carlo Puiia officially resigned from his position, he said that his primary reason in doing so was “to focus more on his family's happiness and safety.”
Following an executive session at the Sept. 19 selectmen's meeting, the board unanimously voted to accept Puiia's resignation. In his resignation letter, he wrote that his decision to resign was “a personal one,” and one that was “based primarily on family values.”
In an interview Thursday, Puiia explained that “the Town Manager job has a demand to attend a lot of meetings, appear at a number of functions, many of them on the weekends.
“I guess I realized that I have another 13 years or so to work, and I felt that my family's happiness and safety came first,” Puiia said. He said that his family was “not surprised” at his decision and were “very supportive and optimistic.”
“Before I officially resigned, I called all seven of my siblings and my mother,” Puiia said. “I wanted my immediate family to know about it first before it became public. Later, I told the board about it, and while they were surprised, they said they understood and accepted it.”
As for the future, Puiia said he has yet to solidify any plans. “I really don't have any specific goals set for the type of employment I'll seek,” Puiia said. “I'll be going through that process very soon, though.”
Puiia's resignation comes at a time when the town has yet to pass a budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
Voters originally turned down all 12 money articles on June 11 at the annual town meeting. They totaled $7.5 million. Selectmen cut $1 million from the next budget, which was presented July 23. The Finance Committee reduced their proposed budget to $7.2 million.
At that referendum, eight of the 12 budget articles were rejected.
The Board of Selectmen reduced each budget article and in a third budget vote on Aug. 27, voters rejected the eight budget articles again.
Puiia said that the budget process did not play a huge role in his decision to resign.
“I would say that the budget certainly played a small part in my decision, but it's not the primary reason,” Puiia explained. “Like anybody that decides to leave a position, there are a number of reasons, but primarily, it's my family that holds the most weight right now over anything else.”
Puiia added that he's heard comments from people stating that they are “disappointed” in his decision, but that “they also have an understanding of why I made that decision.”
Before being appointed Town Manager in June 2009, Puiia served as the town's tax collector for 13 years, and worked as a self-employed tax prepairer before that.
“While I was tax collector, I became very interested in the Town Manager position and wanted the opportunity to try and serve in that position,” Puiia said. “I'm extremely grateful that I had that opportunity.”
Despite submitting his resignation, Puiia told the Board of Selectmen that he would stay in his position for up to 90 days while they search for a replacement.
Even so, Puiia said that resigning has given him the chance to reflect on his four years as Town Manager.
“It's been a process the whole way,” Puiia said. “You learn about the job based on customer service, on communication, and you learn that it's also about being fair and treating people respectfully. In fact, I feel those are some of the basic principles of life, whether you're a stock boy or a Town Manager.”
“I've prided myself on trying to reflect well in the public eye,” Puiia continued. “I think I did a pretty good job at that, and hopefully, I can continue to uphold that. I know there are some people out there blaming me for things, but I've talked with a lot of people in the Save Rumford group and they're wonderful people. I harbor no ill will or resentment towards them. I am, however, disappointed in their leadership. The three leaders in that group have been, in my opinion, irresponsible and disrespectful, and have brought politics to a new low, which is unfortunate.”
Puiia later said that he'd always appreciate the community and the connection he shared with them.
“When you work in an environment for 17 years, you make a lot of good, productive relationships,” Puiia said. “You hate to see it end, but everyone realizes that we're all individuals and we all have our reasons.”