OXFORD — Oxford is ready for its new town manager, Adam Garland, who officially starts in his new post on Mar. 22.

Oxford’s Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the hiring of Garland at its Mar. 4 meeting. Oxford had been searching for a new chief executive since last summer.

Currently a resident of Brunswick, Garland has served as Richmond’s Town Manager for the last two and a half years. Before that he was Town Administrator in West Bath from 2014-2018. His career in public service began in Augusta, where he worked as a police officer for 3 years starting in 2003 and then Richmond for the next eight years.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in leadership and management from Bluefield College, which is based in Virginia, and a master’s degree in management and human resources from Purdue Global University, formerly Kaplan University.

Oxford’s new town manager Adam Garland (left) with his family Abby, Michelle and Joyce. Supplied photo

“I wasn’t actively looking for another move,” said Garland. My adult stepdaughter lives in in Oxford Hills so we often drive through the area. When the [town manager] opportunity came up it sparked my interest. I researched the town and it looked like it would bring me new professional challenges. It’s a full service community, which Richmond is too, but it looked like a step forward. It made sense.”

Those challenges include a number of unique aspects that almost no other Maine town has. One is Oxford Casino and Hotel, which attracts thousands from beyond Maine and has 500 employees. Another is Oxford Plains Speedway, which has become a racing staple for generations of Mainers.

“I’ve never actually been to the casino, and that’s actually become a joke between my friends and colleagues,” Garland laughed. “I’m going to have to change that for sure. But my wife and stepdaughter have gone.

“I used to go to the speedway, especially the Enduro races back in the ’90s. I used to enjoy that and their Wednesday night series.”

And then there are the town’s lake dams that provide several communities with property tax revenues and long term maintenance headaches. Oxford has two, the Thompson Lake dam and the Welchville dam that drains Hogan and Whitney Ponds. Garland comes with experience in inter-local dam management.

“Richmond has no dams, but we are part of the New Mills Dam on Pleasant Pond which affects Gardner, Richmond and Litchfield,” Garland said. “Richmond sits on the dam committee, which is part of the Cobbossee watershed. The dam is managed by a nonprofit entity along with representatives from the three towns.”

The New Mills Dam is located in Gardner. The three municipalities took over co-ownership of the dam back in 2000 and share financial responsibilities and decision-making. Garland’s role as Richmond’s town manager was the review of annual maintenance agreements and budgeting.

The deteriorating condition of Oxford’s Town Office is one of the more pressing issues Garland will be faced with. After two years of consideration, Oxford’s Facilities Committee recommended in late 2020 that a new building be constructed next to the public safety facility over the option of leasing office space.

But moisture and mildew conditions in the basement, expensive operation of and repair to the heating system and degrading stairwells continue to plague the building and new construction costs have spiraled over the last year due to the pandemic.

At a special town meeting Oxford voters refused to commit to a five-year office lease at Oxford Plaza that would have provided safer working conditions and a buffer for the building market to stabilize. Selectmen hope to have a more acceptable alternative before the next annual town meeting in June.

“It was even discussed during my interview process that the town office is a problem,” Garland said. “I think that I need to get input from both the committee and the selectmen. It’s important to explore all the options that are…in the best interest of the town and its employees.”

Among the opportunities Garland sees for Oxford are its two TIFs.

“In Richmond, there is a TIF associated [with the natural gas] pipeline,” Garland said. “Working through the process there, opened my eyes to the benefits that a TIF district brings to a community. Oxford has Wal-Mart and casino TIF districts, used mostly to pay for debt service on utilities and so forth. I’d like ways to make those TIFs stronger for the community. I find that [TIFs are] oddly fascinating for some reason.

“The TIF districts may be useful to make improvements, leverage them a little bit more. It’s too early to say exactly, but the way Oxford’s TIFs are structured, there may be allowances for what the funds can be used for. They can have broader, or more restrictive, interpretation. The last time it was updated in Richmond we expanded for more uses from the dollars.”

Coming in as Oxford builds its budget for the next fiscal year, Garland will hit the ground running as he familiarizes himself with the town’s finances and projects. He looks forward to acquainting himself with municipal staff, local business leaders and Oxford’s neighboring towns. His goal is to be visible and available to those he serves.

“I’m about community outreach and reaching out,” he said. “I’ve done Facebook videos, like to explain to Richmond residents the TIF changes, for example. I’ve done video presentations on big projects, gone down to the senior center and done information sessions with residents. Doing outreach makes the municipal government more successful and accessible.”

Garland had his first informal day on the job on Mar. 12, for scheduled meetings with the outgoing town manager and introductions to municipal department heads.

“Everyone seemed very welcoming,” Garland said in an email statement. “Aside from jumping in at the middle of the budget process it is clear there is much work to be done. In speaking with Butch [Asselin] it appears there are many issues that will need immediate attention. Some are repairs and future planning for both dams as well as addressing the need for different town office facilities. I look forward to working with the board of selectmen, town employees, and residents of Oxford.”

Garland lives in Brunswick with his wife Joyce and daughter Abby, a freshman at Maranacook High School.

“For fun, we do a lot of hiking and camping,” he said. “We’re outdoors people, spring, summer and fall. We enjoy doing things together as a family. My daughter plays ice hockey so during winter we’re focused on her [playing season].

Garland will initially commute from Brunswick to Oxford Hills, although an eventual move closer to split the distance between his wife’s work in Bath and his in Oxford is possible. His stepdaughter Michelle lives in nearby South Paris.

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