May 4—BUCKFIELD — Citing a "toxic environment," Town Manager John Andrews resigned his position Monday after six months on the job.
The announcement was made following a one hour, 18 minute executive session to start Monday's select board meeting. Chairwoman Tina Brooks announced the resignation and said the board would be hiring an interim town manager.
His resignation letter was not read at the meeting and the board did not vote on whether on not to accept the resignation.
In his letter, Andrews said his resignation was effective immediately and he stated that he wished the town and its citizens the best of luck. However, in the letter he expressed his frustration with the Select Board and the tremendous amount of extra work that was required to run the town.
"I took this position in the hopes of helping the town of Buckfield as its town manager," Andrews wrote. "Unfortunately, this is not how things played out. By the end of my first week on the job, my contract was broken and I had the roles of treasurer, clerk and tax collector added to my plate. Had I known that my role would involve those additional jobs, I would have never applied for the position. I have spent the last seven months, often working five weeks a month to try to keep the town running. The work load is too much, and I am still buried with no end in sight.
"Select Board meetings and board meetings regarding the budget have been hostile, argumentative and plagued by in-fighting among board members," he added. "This is a toxic environment, and I no longer want to be a part of it. The future Select Board, that I hope is much more functional, should hire someone with the required treasurer and tax collector experience as that is what is needed to fill the void from the departure of the previous long-term administration. This is not a good fit for me, and I feel that it is time for me to move on to a new endeavor."
Andrews, who also serves as the District 73 state legislator for Buckfield, Hebron and Paris, was hired in the first week of November, replacing Joe Roach, who left in August to become town manager in Rangeley. Mitch Berkowitz, who had served as interim town manager, was at Monday's meeting and has been present during the budget process, providing the town with guidance.
Berkowitz would have been a natural choice to fill in again as interim manager, but he was just hired Monday as interim Town Manager in Mechanic Falls.
Andrews' tenure began with the unexpected resignation of longtime town clerk Cindy Dunn, who left soon after he was hired. That left a gaping hole in the town office and Andrews struggled to hire and train a new office staff. The town office was closed for more than a month and neighboring Paris was accepting car registrations on Buckfield's behalf during the transition.
Town Clerk Melissa Wolf and office assistant Calley Baker are now working in the town office.
Andrews often found himself at odds with the select board and complained during a recent meeting on the budget that the board was nickel and diming it to death and told board members that if they did not like his budget to just vote against it. The board did eventually accept the budget.
The Select Board postponed scheduled public hearings on the 2021-22 town budget that were scheduled for Tuesday, May 4, and Saturday, May 8. Much of the scheduled agenda was postponed, including the approval of minutes, until the next meeting. The board will meet again Thursday, May 6, at 6:30 p.m.
In other business, a special amusement permit was approved for Buck-It Grill and Pub.
The board held another executive session about personnel at the end of the meeting that lasted 29 minutes, but no action was taken afterwards.