Roberge resignation a ‘stunner’

Council to meet next Wednesday to discuss
Thu, 10/24/2019 - 7:30pm

“It was a stunner. I’m disappointed we only got two years with him, because I think he was a great fit for the island.”

First Warden Ken Lacoste made those remarks to The Times regarding the departure of Town Manager Ed Roberge, who submitted his letter of resignation to the Town Council on Monday night. Roberge had signed a five-year contract with the town to serve as Town Manager. His resignation is effective Dec. 20, 2019.

“He gave us 60 days notice, which we’re grateful for,” said Lacoste. “It’s a great loss for the island, but I understand his decision, both professionally and personally, regarding his family. It’s now up to us to fill the void. He set the bar high. Hopefully we will find a replacement with the same skill set and credentials.”

Lacoste said the Town Council will be holding a public meeting next Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. to discuss, and potentially act on the next steps moving forward. Lacoste said that could mean reaching out “to the search committee” to get their input or participation.  

“The meeting next Wednesday will be the Town Council reacting to Ed’s resignation,” said Lacoste. “The public will be able to weigh in to some extent, but it’s important for the Town Council to act in some capacity. We were hoping to work with him longer, but we all have to do a good job with finding his replacement.”

Second Warden André Boudreau sent The Times a statement regarding the resignation: “Ed’s worked great with the Town Council, staff, and residents of New Shoreham. In addition to the council, Ed has an enormous amount of support from staff and residents. Together we have accomplishments that we are all proud of. We are sad to see Ed leave, but we respect and appreciate his decision. I can assure you that Ed is leaving on the best of terms and we all look forward to working with him during the transition.”

The accomplishments Boudreau was referring to are Roberge’s shepherding of various town projects, including the West Beach revetment project, the Community Anchor Institution broadband network, the Thomas Property town employee housing project, an update of the Harbor Management Plan, an assortment of infrastructure proposals, and overseeing National Grid’s cable work at the Fred Benson Town Beach.

Sam Bird, the town’s Facilities Manager, has worked closely with Roberge on town projects. He told The Times during an interview in his office that he enjoyed working with Roberge.

“I’m sorry to see him leave,” said Bird. “And I’m sorry to see us have to go through another transition period. The work load falls on everybody at Town Hall now.”

Marc Tillson, the town’s Building Official, shared similar thoughts, while also noting that his planned retirement date of Dec. 18, 2019 is two days prior to Roberge’s resignation date. Tillson said he has spoken with various town officials about “staying on.”

“We’re all disappointed, but we respect his decision,” said Tillson. “I’m disappointed that we will be losing such a competent and professional town manager. I don’t think we will find someone like Ed. I respect his decision. Sometimes things don’t work out. But the work will continue. We’ll be able to continue.”

“My personal concern regarding the resignation is that I’m really trying to retire” as building official, said Tillson, who noted that he gave the town 16 months notice. However, he also said he made an offer to town officials to stay on for another year, meaning until next October. He added: “I don’t think it would be in the town’s best interest to lose a town manager and building official at the same time.”

Tillson said he felt that after working for the town for 30 years he would want to continue in his role “with minor changes” to his workload. He also said he would be willing to stay on as a contractual employee to oversee “building projects and zoning issues. I enjoy working with the public and the builders.”

Tillson noted that the Building Department is looking for someone to train to eventually take over his position. That person would start as a Building Inspector, learning the building codes. “They have to have a general knowledge of the codes,” he said, noting that the position is included in the town’s budget.

As for the town’s town manager situation, since former Town Manager Nancy Dodge, who worked for 16 years in the role, resigned in Sept. of 2016, it’s become a revolving door at Town Hall. James Lathrop was hired in November 2016, but lasted less than three months as town manager. Shirlyne Gobern, assistant to the town manager, acted in an interim capacity until Roberge assumed office in early 2018.

The council appointed Roberge town manager in Sept. of 2017, and after a protracted negotiation period, he began his tenure in early 2018. Roberge was previously an engineer for the city of Concord, New Hampshire. He told The Times he did not wish to comment regarding his resignation.