2016-12-16 / Front Page

Chamber dedicated to manager

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

Michael McGovern Michael McGovern CAPE ELIZABETH — During a recent reception at the Purpoodock Club, more than 200 Cape Elizabeth residents gathered to bid farewell to outgoing town manager Michael McGovern. That would have been a fine sendoff for most municipal officials, but at McGovern’s last public meeting, Dec. 12, the town council sprang an additional surprise.

By unanimous vote, the council agreed to name its chambers within town hall for McGovern. A plaque will soon be installed at the entrance reading: “This room is dedicated to Michael K. McGovern in honor of his dedicated service to the citizens of Cape Elizabeth as town manager from May 1985 to December 2016.”

In May 1978, McGovern parlayed a college internship at town hall the previous summer – landed just two days after his graduation from the University of Maine – into an offer to become assistant town manager. According to Councilor Jessica Sullivan – who made the motion to dedicate the room, appearing to become a little teary-eyed toward the end – since ascending to the top job in 1985, McGovern has attended “well over 1,000 regular council meetings and workshops.” Along the way, he worked with 56 individual town councilors, she said.

State Sen. Rebecca Millett followed the standing ovation that came with the dedication by reading a legislative sentiment congratulating McGovern on his service. By successfully holding court with so many elected officials over the years, and by masterfully handling residents including her own “obstreperous” grandfather, McGovern had more than proven himself to be a “master diplomat,” she said.

Given his long and successful tenure, Sullivan said it “just doesn’t seem possible” to many that McGovern will soon be a memory, but for his name on the wall.

“Under Mike’s guidance and leadership over the last 31 years, Cape Elizabeth has grown steadily as a vibrant community with outstanding fiscal management, municipal services, facilities and schools, while maintaining it’s historical roots and character,” she said. “Mike has been an outstanding manager and gifted leader who has consistently inspired us all – employees, volunteers and elected officials – to serve people of Cape Elizabeth to the very best of our abilities.”

Sullivan concluded by predicting McGovern’s legacy will be less a sign and a room with his name on it, than something “greater and less tangible” – namely, a culture within Cape Elizabeth Town Hall of “transparency and integrity.”

“He leaves us all with a legacy of faith in local government,” Sullivan said. “The McGovern era will be the standard of excellence for Cape Elizabeth’s future.”

McGovern’s last day will be Dec. 31. However, he did sign a contract with the town council in October agreeing to stay on through June 30 as a consultant to assist interim manager Debra Lane and/or the new town manager, whenever that person is hired. He will retain his existing health benefits through the duration of the contact and will be paid 80 percent of his current $123,000 annual salary, pro-rated to the half-year.

The new dedication plaque is not McGovern’s only lasting contribution to the look of council chambers, a room that served as an auditorium during town hall’s original life as a school building. In 2013 he led a drive to remove the raised four-foot high council dais that had been in place since his days as assistant town manger.

The idea, he said at the time, was to make the council seem less austere and foreboding to those who appeared before it, while also removing a structure that dominated nearly half of the room.

McGovern, 60, has not divulged any imminent retirement plans, although he remains a fixture within the local and international chapters of the Rotary Club, for whom he has traveled the world leading efforts to combat polio.

McGovern did not speak following the dedication vote, or Millett’s address, instead accepting the accolades in gracious silence. However, he did say a few words during his final manager’s report.

“I wrote up some thing I’m not going to read as I might get a little emotional over it,” he said. “But it’s been a wonderful run. I never dreamed all those years ago when I came here as an intern in 1977 that I would retire here, but I’ve never regretted a day. I think a lot of good things have been accomplished. There have been some disappointments along the way, but allin all I am just extremely appreciative of having had this opportunity, serving what is, I think, if not the finest, one of the finest communities anywhere. So, thank you.”

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