NORWAY — After a lengthy search that spanned a year, the town of Norway found its new town manager this fall – a person practically in its own backyard.

The Advertiser Democrat sat down with Jeff Wilson, Norway’s incoming town manager, on Dec. 1. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

Jeffrey Wilson, a local attorney who is drawing down his law practice in South Paris, starts his new career as Norway’s head administrator this month.

Wilson succeeds interim town manager Brad Plante, who came on board last April as former town manager Dennis Lajoie transitioned out from his fulltime duties, which had been extended from the end of 2022.

There were important reasons leading Wilson to change careers from a legal to a municipal officer.

“The primary factor was family,” he said. “I love my job as a litigator and courtroom attorney. The problem is that a rural lawyer ends up in Farmington or Portland until the end of the day, and I want to coach my kids’ sports teams. I can’t do that if I’m an hour or more away.

“And I want more time in the evenings to be that family person. Working local 100% of the time allows me to do that.”

Advertisement

While Wilson did not have a specific goal as a town administrator when he and his wife Sarah moved to rural western Maine, part of the draw was joining and contributing to a well-knit community.

“We wanted to live where we could have an impact,” Wilson said. “I’ve been able to do that to some degree as an attorney, and by serving on local boards: the Western Foothills Land Trust, the Guy E. Rowe ECHO (the elementary school’s parent/teacher organization), and Oxford SACC and Preschool.

“What better way to improve the town I live in, the town my children live in and my friends live in, than being at the lead helm, taking on projects to improve the community and commercial life, to improve the reasons we live here? It’s a great opportunity.”

The Wilsons moved to Norway back in 2014, as Sarah completed her medical residency at Stephens Memorial Hospital and joined Western Maine Health’s pediatrics and internal medicine practice. Their children Oscar (9) and Sadie (5) are both students at Rowe School.

When Norway reposted the town manager position last August, Wilson took notice, attending some town board and committee meetings. He discovered a passion for the work and Norway’s commitment to the core of its strategic plan. He applied for the job and Norway’s select board announced his hiring in late October.

Russell Newcomb, who chairs the board of selectmen, said that it was clear from Wilson’s initial interview that he stood out from other applicants.

Advertisement

“We interviewed a number of people during our first round [in 2022] but felt we weren’t seeing just the right fit,” Newcomb told the Advertiser Democrat. “We decided to wait [a while] and got a fairly good response” when the position was reposted earlier this year.

“When we met with Jeff, his energy stood out. He was excited about the role and showed a lot of energy. His enthusiasm was a pleasant surprise we hadn’t seen.”

By the end of Wilson’s second interview the board was ready to initiate terms for hiring. They unanimously appointed him as town manager at their Oct. 19 meeting.

With staff at his South Paris law firm managing most of the day-to-day process, Wilson began winding down his caseload and business. He is withdrawing from almost all his litigation cases, with a few exceptions that are close to completion.

Wilson says he is fortunate that his new responsibilities come with two predecessors to turn to for their institutional knowledge, along with a strong, cooperative board of selectmen and community organizations that share a common vision that balances residential and commercial interests with sustainability.

Lajoie will continue a while longer as a consultant, steering a reorganization of Norway’s municipal and public safety headquarters, and serving as project manager of a Village Project Initiative (VPI) with the Maine Department of Transportation. The VPI project focuses on Norway’s retail district and includes improving ADA compliances and traffic coming into the downtown, including bike lanes.

Wilson said Lajoie will also work with him to facilitate Norway’s solar expansion plan and be available to confer with as he tackles the town’s finances and fiscal year 2024-25 budget.

His first day as town manager will be Dec. 15.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.