2014 presents challenges, opportunities
All indications are that the first half of 2014 will be busy and challenging in some key local areas.
With the resignation of City Manager James Smith, Rockland's Finance Director Thomas Luttrell will be taking the helm at City Hall for the time being. He has been named temporary city manager until Jan. 18, and the City Council may decide this month to keep him in that work for a longer span of time.
Luttrell responded to Smith's arrival in March 2012, as we recall, saying no one was happier to see the new manager than he was. This is because while the council is searching for a new city manager, Luttrell has to juggle both the duties of his job as finance director with the additional work of serving as acting city manager.
This will be the second time he has taken on this challenge. The last time was after Rosemary Kulow resigned from the city manager post prior to Smith coming to town.
Hiring a city manager is a lengthy process, and we expect to be well into the new year and the next round of budget discussions before the replacement is found.
Hopefully, whoever leads in the city will work on traffic problems in the coming year. Construction and water projects made getting around the city a nightmare in 2013.
As challenging as the coming year looks at City Hall, the staff there would probably not want to switch places with those in the central office at Regional School Unit 13.
The school district that includes Rockland, Thomaston, South Thomaston, Owls Head, Cushing and (for now) St. George goes into the new year with Business Manager Scott Vaitones still on paid administrative leave, the schools in a spending/hiring budget freeze, a temporary business manager likely coming soon, the board chairperson stepping down and the superintendent facing a vote of no confidence from a large number of the staff.
A budget needs to be put together by summer, union contract negotiations need to move forward and St. George is continuing to work toward leaving the district.
Now is the time for leaders in these important areas to sit down and talk about their goals for the coming years. Daunting and challenging as the issues may be when looked at all at once, it helps to set up a list of priorities and break down what needs to be done into manageable bites.
Strong, inspiring leadership is needed, the kind that appeals to the best in people. If the school board can agree to a list of specific goals, it would build unity among board members working toward those goals.
It may also make sense to have consultants from the Maine Department of Education come in and look at the situation to see what needs to be done.
While the new year already promises to be busy, it also holds the opportunity to turn a new page and forge a new beginning. We look forward to a 2014 that will see significant accomplishments in the Midcoast.