RUMFORD — John Madigan Jr.’s first job as town manager was right out of college in 1978 in the small Piscataquis County town of Monson in 1978.

It was a little town where he made some big decisions.

“A little town like that, that’s where you learn how to be a town manager because you have to do everything,” he said. “There was me and one other employee — the road guy — and occasionally, a part-time helper. I had a part-time secretary who would come in to write the town report or type up the warrant for the annual budget.

“I actually had to write myself a receipt — received by John Madigan, tax collector, signed, John Madigan, treasurer — to keep the paper trail going,” he said.

Madigan remembered his first day working at the office — it was pouring outside.

“A social worker comes in and said so and so ‘has a dozen pots all over his house and water is pouring through his roof,'” he said. “‘He’s a disabled veteran whose house is the size of a garage.’ So I call the chairman of the board (of selectmen) about what I heard, not knowing what our role was. She said, “See what you can do to help him,'” Madigan said.

“So I went over to the local hardware store and said, ‘Could you set up an account for some roofing material?’ I know the guy gets a VA check every month and needs to make an arrangement to pay it back. So I set that up for him. Then I call my highway guy and said, ‘After lunch, we’re going to go over to so and so’s house and roof his house.'”

They proceeded to roof the guy’s house, which Madigan said was not exactly what the chairman had in mind for him to help the man.

After two years in Monson, Madigan went to Eastport, where he was manager from 1982-85. During his tenure, aquaculture was developed and the breakwater was expanded to bring in cargo ships. He was successful in getting more than $4 million in grants.

“It was one of the most poverty-stricken areas in the whole state, back in the ’80s,” he said. “I did a lot of good things to improve the situation up there.”

In 1985, he applied for the town manager’s post in Rumford and got a surprise visit from Selectmen Garfield Adley and Eddie Shurtleff, who had been talking with Eastport residents about him.

On a Sunday morning, there was a knock on his door.

“We were just getting ready to go out the door for church, and there’s Garfield and Eddie, and I’m like, ‘Gee, fellows, I didn’t expect to see you here. I’d invite you in, but my family is on their way to church. So if you want to hang around and come back in about an hour and a half, that’s fine.'”

So they walked around town and interviewed more people and came back later, he said.

A few days later, they asked Madigan to come to Rumford for a second interview and offered him the job.

He said his seven years in Rumford, from 1985-92, were when he made his biggest impact, thanks to a state grant program that matched local dollars.

“The economy was really bad and the state came up with a grant program to create jobs,” he said. “The state floated a bond to try to spark the economy and put people to work.

“So you could apply for any number of projects, so long as you could show in your application that you had a 50-50 match,” he said. “We put in five projects back then, and we got four of them funded.”

The projects were:

• renovating the Town Hall;

• clearing all the lots in the Industrial Park to make them more saleable;

• putting in sewer extensions — one all the way to Mt. Zircon, and a sewer line down Route 108 — along with a couple of pump stations; and

• constructing the walking trail, the tennis courts and the bathroom in the Hosmer Field Complex.

Madigan left the job to do carpentry and other work over the next 12 years, returning to town government in 2005 as manager of Mexico. After that, he served two more years as manager of Rumford, seven months as manager of Dixfield and Mexico and the past two years a manager of Rumford and Mexico.

This week, he announced his double duty will come to an end in June. He turned 66 on Thursday and is ready for his next endeavor: a run for the state legislature.

Madigan, a Democrat, is seeking to represent House District 115, which includes Rumford, Roxbury, Sumner, Woodstock and Milton Plantation.

“All through the ’80s, I realized you can’t run a town by staying in town. These days, so many things that happen in Augusta, or in Washington, for that matter, impact the towns in a lot of ways,” he said.

“It would nice if I could work a few more years, but this is something that, with all the experience that I’ve had, being a municipal manager for a good part of my adult life here, all over the state, I’ve learned so much about what’s going on in Augusta and the relationship that needs to take place between the state and the municipality. 

“Rather than just retire and go to pasture, I still have some useful life in here. I’ve thought for years that I’d love to be able to be a legislator and contribute some experience and some knowledge,” he said.

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