JAY — Town Manager Ruth Cushman has visions of travel, spending more time with grandchildren Austin and Emily, sitting down to read books and doing some quilting.
Cushman, 64, of Wilton is retiring after 12 years at the helm of Jay. Her last Board of Selectpersons meeting is Feb. 24.
Cushman started out as a selectman in Strong and went on to become administrative assistant in Anson and town manager of Livermore Falls. She became manager of Jay on Jan. 1, 2002.
When she started down the road to become a town manager she had guidance.
“When you are a new manager, you need somebody to call on and for me that was Dick Davis (town manager of Farmington),” Cushman said. “He is an amazing person and I just have so much respect for him.”
Among her accomplishments, she said, is the move into a new Town Office in 2008 that is more accessible to the public.
During her tenure, residents voted in 2010 to suspended the town’s Environmental Control and Improvement Ordinance to alleviate businesses from having to duplicate the permitting process done at the state level.
She also oversaw changes in the way business is conducted at the Transfer Station and downsizing the station, Town Office and Highway Department to help reduce expenses.
The town was recognized by the state for having a safe and healthy workplace environment in all departments in 2013.
“We have worked very hard on our safety programs to the point where we received the SHAPE Award and it has really impacted what we pay for our insurance,” Cushman said.
She oversaw revising policies and procedures to make them practical and easy to apply. Improvements have been made to roads and sewer lines and a plan was developed to clean and repair all stones in the town’s 10 cemeteries.
“To me, this is a matter of respect for our friends and family who have passed away,” Cushman said.
One of her greatest accomplishments, she said, is developing a relationship with the Board of Selectpersons.
“It allows us to be able to communicate freely on both sides so we really can move forward in our work and it is not all tied up in constant debate,” she said. “It really is hard to develop that kind of relationship. It is really nice to be leaving my job because I want to and not because of political pressure and they want you gone. That happens so often, and I’m grateful that is not happening to me.”
She also has worked hard to have open communication with the town’s biggest taxpayer, Verso Paper Corp.
“They have told me things I didn’t want to hear and I have told them things they didn’t want to hear,” she said. “But its OK. We have been able to work for the good of the town.”
Cushman has also spent time in Augusta fighting for what is best for the town in front of the Legislature, particularly in front of the Tax Committee related to business equipment reimbursement and tax exemption.
“We were at the table trying to make the Legislature aware of the impact that some of the rules and regulations would have on (Franklin County), particularly in Jay,” she said.
Cushman has served as president of the Maine Town and City Managers Association and as a member of the executive board and Legislative Policy Committee of the Maine Municipal Association.
“I have loved being manager here. I never dreaded coming to work, and the people I work with are just top notch,” she said.
She said she did it all with the support of her family and with their understanding of the demands of her job.