Sabattus town manager hits the ground running

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SABATTUS – After two days as town manager, Gregory Gill had yet to move into his office.

At a desk in the selectmen’s office, Gill, 57, began to wade through state grant information, Maine Municipal Association pamphlets and the town’s comprehensive plan.

He also tried to learn his phone and fax numbers, which he kept hidden beneath a desk blotter and referenced with a peek.

“I really longed to be a town manager again,” said Gill, who spent a year as Minot’s town administrator, beginning in February 2004. Prior to working there, he served as town manager in Readfield and as both codes enforcement officer and community development director in Livermore Falls.

Here, he will help set the pattern for future town managers. Town voters created the position as part of a new charter, ratified last November.

A selection committee hired Gill after examining 20 applications and talking with several finalists.

Selectman Gino Camardese called Gill “a real good fit” for the town, citing the veteran administrator’s ideas as standing out among the crowd of applicants.

Not that Gill’s ideas would be instantly popular. He aims to widen the tax base in the town, he said. One likely helper: zoning.

Sabattus relies too heavily on residential taxpayers to pay the town’s bills, Gill said. The only way to shift that is to entice businesses, both retail and industrial, to make the move to Sabattus.

The town has no zoning.

Zoning tells business people that they can invest in a property and be assured that a neighbor’s property won’t be used in a way that clashes too much, he said.

It’s a change that the town – not just its manager – would need to endorse.

“I feel like I am working for the town as a whole,” he said. The trick to making changes in any town is finding consensus.

That works for the town office, too.

In his first few days, he met as many people as possible and created monthly staff meetings for the town workers, he said. He also plans to meet with each worker individually.

One of his techniques is asking people about their jobs, getting them to write down descriptions of what they do. Then, he compares those answers to the official job descriptions on file.

“Often, they’re miles apart,” he said. He plans to work with those employees to reconcile the new and old descriptions.

He wants to come up with mission statements and new policies.

“Sometimes the people who work in the town office think it’s their job to please only the five selectmen,” he said. “They’re working for everybody who lives in the town.”

A native of Jay, Gill graduated from Jay High School, and after college owned and operated a furniture restoration business in his hometown for 10 years.

In 1985, he sold the business and went to work at International Paper until its strike two and a half years later.

He entered municipal administration in 1989. After leaving Minot in February 2005, he worked to sell several properties he owned.

But he missed town work and began applying for jobs.

“I was offered two jobs in the same week,” he said. One was the post in Sabattus.

“This town seems poised to grow,” he said. The view from his temporary desk at the town office includes the new Maine Turnpike exit, something he believes may give local development a boost.

“We need to start selling the town,” he said.

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