Lebanon honors Paula Maville, who rose through ranks at City Hall

  • Deputy City Manager Paula Maville, left, laughs as she listens to a speech by Tina Stearns during Maville’s retirement party at Salt Hill Pub in Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. Stearns and Maville worked together in the City Manager’s office for several decades. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America photographs — Alex Driehaus

  • Signatures and well wishes fill a sendoff for Deputy City Manager Paula Maville during her retirement party at Salt Hill Pub in Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Councilor Erling Heistad, right, gives a speech about Deputy City Manager Paula Maville, second from right, during her retirement party at Salt Hill Pub in Lebanon, N.H., on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. Maville started working for the city when she was 18 and worked her way up over her 36-year career. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news/report for america — Alex Driehaus

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/18/2022 7:58:14 PM
Modified: 9/19/2022 9:26:07 PM

LEBANON — If you wanted to know how to do something, or get something done, at Lebanon’s City Hall, you went to Paula.

Paula is Paula Maville, Lebanon’s deputy city manager who retired from the city last month after working for the city for more than 36 years. After being hired as typist/clerk for the planning department when she was 18, Maville rose through the ranks and became the first woman to serve as city manager, an interim post she held for around two years.

“A lot of time when you have the title of secretary, you’re held to a certain role and because of the people I was working with, that was never true for me,” Maville, of West Lebanon, said. “As an administrative assistant I was doing work that would normally be reserved for associate and senior planners.”

Part of what endeared Maville to her colleagues is her grasp of the so-called “soft skills” including her strong communication skills, her ability to explain often-complex procedures to members of the public or developers and her gift for keeping everything organized. During his time as city planner, Kenneth Niemczyk never had to worry about where to find a folder and Maville quickly became one of the people he trusted the most.

“She was more like a partner in helping to run the planning office,” said Niemczyk, who worked with Maville for a decade.

It was also a time of great growth for the city. During Maville’s tenure in the planning office, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center was established in Lebanon. West Lebanon’s 12A corridor and Centerra expanded.

“Planning was my absolute favorite,” Maville said. She credits that office with turning what she thought would be a temporary job into a career. “I’ve always had the ability to take things that were a little more difficult and put them into layman’s terms. I think those things being recognized by people I was working with is what propelled me.”

Niemczyk, along with other colleagues, admired Maville’s problem solving and project management skills. She was part of discussions that, as she describes it, were above her paygrade.

“I’m really, at heart, a process person,” Maville said. “I was always able to take on more responsibility and learn things at levels that were above my job description.”

The first phrase that comes to mind when he thinks of Maville is “no nonsense,” said David Brooks, Lebanon’s new deputy manager who previously served as the planning director.

“She just had a matter-of-fact way about her that made it easy to know where she was coming from on any given topic,” Brooks said. “You knew exactly where she stood. I always appreciated that. I imagine others do as well.”

Maville also worked for other city departments, including public works and finance. She even worked for her mother, Donna Hutchins, Lebanon’s long time human services director.

“In every department was in, she elevated that department,” said Lori Dunn, who has been friends with Maville for more than 40 years. “She went in learning and she left leaving a better place.”

Maville became interim deputy city manager in 2013, a position former city manager Greg Lewis created. The role would become permanent once she earned her bachelor’s degree, which she did in 2015 while working full time and raising her son.

“Everything just kind of, I don’t know how to say it, it was an evolution over all of that time,” Maville said. “Learning from the ground up rather than coming in as somebody who went to college really I think what has made me be that go-to person.”

She served as interim city manager after Lewis stepped down from the city in 2015 and again in 2016 to 2017 after Lewis’ replacement left after six months. Maville gave a lot of thought about taking on the role full time, but ultimately decided against it.

“It’s just because I don’t like politics,” she said. “I felt like after doing some real soul searching, that with everything that I had to bring to the table and all of the knowledge I gained over all those years, where I needed to be was in that second chair and being the best support person I could be.”

Maville was the deciding factor for current city manager Shaun Mulholland when he was offered the job. During his interview process with the city council, he had a request: He wanted to meet and interview Maville.

“I wanted to know who my partner was going to be and that was a key decision if I was going to get an offer for the job,” Mulholland said. He was impressed and told the City Council that Maville would not be a “traditional deputy.” Instead, she would oversee the planning and development department and the human services department.

“For all intents and purposes she was the city manager that they answered to. It’s the closest thing to having co-city managers as you might find,” Mulholland said. “It allowed us to really expand our work and get a lot more done in this office working as team like that.”

During her time on the city council and later as mayor, Suzanne Prentiss worked closely with Maville as interim city manager. Prentiss, now a state senator, relied on Maville for her institutional knowledge. Every ‘i’ was always dotted, every ‘t’ was always crossed.

“She was willing to work hard to get the job done and she did it well,” Prentiss said. “I think I’m a better elected official and stronger state senator because I worked with someone like Paula.”

Maville also served as a mentor to other women in the city, including Kelly Crate, who joined the planning department 22 years ago and is now administrative services manager for the public works department.

“My first impression of her in city hall was just how well-rounded of an individual she was with what she knew, her knowledge base,” Crate said. “Working with her a short time I knew I was going to Paula with any question I had.”

They worked together on DHMC’s expansion, going over permits and plans to make sure everything was in order. That’s where Crate saw Maville’s organizational skills shine the most. Maville also made it a point to reach out to other women in the city and mentor them in their careers.

“I definitely appreciated that and was and am so very thankful for it because she was always willing to give guidance and also challenge me to think outside the box,” Crate said. “She was definitely a good motivator.”

Maville’s rise from a typist to city leader is in many ways remarkable, but to those who know her best, they weren’t surprised.

“It just always seemed like it was meant to be for her,” Dunn said. “She was such a good fit for the City of Lebanon.”

Her career also created a blueprint for how the city can mentor its employees to prepare them for larger roles.

“People invested in her and she grew. She provided higher and higher levels of service to the city,” Mulholland said. “That’s an important lesson to be learned. We have to grow our own people.”

Maville, 55, will continue to serve as a part-time special projects manager to the city and also plans on starting a home organizing business. She wants to help families organize their closets, drawers and pantries.

“I just want to help make things run a little better,” she said, acknowledging that it’s similar to what she’s done for Lebanon.

After ruminating about it, Maville said her greatest accomplishment is that she was the first woman to lead Lebanon. But she said she isn’t motivated by setting big goals and achieving them.

“People see me as being extremely ambitious but I’ve never felt that I’m like a person who strives for those things. I find my motivation just comes from the impacts that I have on others and helping to get things done,” she said. “When things are not working as well as they could be working, that’s where I come in and pull it all apart and find out what it needs to be better and then I work with people to make it better.”

Editor’s note: Lebanon City Council will discuss a resolution honoring Maville for her service to the city at its Sept. 21 meeting. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com and 603-727-3221.

CORRECTION: Sue Prentiss is a New Hampshire state senator. An earlier version of this story misstated which political office Prentiss holds.

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