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Thetford names first manager

  • Serena Bemis-Goodall (Courtesy photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, July 22, 2019

THETFORD — The Selectboard has appointed Thetford’s first town manager.

Serena Bemis-Goodall, who is expected to start on Aug. 5, comes to Thetford from the small town of Corinna, Maine, where she has served as town manager for nearly five years.

Prior to that, Bemis-Goodall, 59, served as the first town manager for Newburgh, Maine, an experience she plans to put to use as she takes on the new position in Thetford. Newburgh hired Bemis-Goodall following an embezzlement and she said she will bring the same approach to transparency she brought to that role.

“As a town manager, you really have to get out into the community,” Bemis-Goodall said. “...Your door is always open.”

Her current town, Corinna, has a population of about 2,200 and is about 30 miles west of Bangor, Maine.

Once she arrives, Bemis-Goodall plans to provide community members with her personal phone number so they can reach her easily.

“They also are going to have the benefit of knowing when they call that town office, they’re going to be dealing with someone who’s there right then,” Bemis-Goodall said. It’s “not going to cause more stress on the daily lives of your selectmen.”

Voters in Thetford approved the creation of the town manager position in a ballot measure last November. The vote was 805-593. In March, the $2.74 million budget voters approved included $36,400 for six months of the town manager’s salary.

Selectboard Chairman Stuart Rogers said in an email that Bemis-Goodall will be working on a three-year contract with the town. The job description advertised the salary as between $70,000 and $80,000.

“We are very excited to be looking forward to working with her and feel she will be a great fit for Thetford and Town Hall,” Rogers said.

The Selectboard pitched the idea of hiring a town manager as a measure to alleviate their workload. A committee came together last year to study expenses and next steps.

Bemis-Goodall said she is looking forward to working with the Selectboard.

It’s a “very, very welcoming; very knowledgeable group of people,” she said.

Vermont is familiar territory to the Maine native. Bemis-Goodall’s resume includes nearly 10 years working in various capacities in the Vermont Agency of Agriculture in the 1990s.

She returned to Maine in 2000 to care for her ailing parents, who are no longer living. She earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental policy and a master’s degree in public administration, both from the University of Maine in Orono.

She began a doctoral program, but gave it up when she took the position in Newburgh.

As a town manager, she said, “You cannot plan your day out. Something else is going to come up that you have to deal with.”

Despite the challenge, Bemis-Goodall said she enjoys the work, which she compared to piecing together a puzzle.

In addition to looking forward to the job, Bemis-Goodall said she is also excited for the chance to return to a state she loves, which offers outdoor recreation opportunities aplenty — she is a kayaker and horseback rider — and to be nearby when her youngest daughter, a Wilder resident, gives birth to her first child next month.

“Vermont is calling me home,” she said.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.