2017-01-20 / Community

Assessor is new Cape Elizabeth town manager

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH — In replacing 31-year town manager Michael McGovern, the Cape Elizabeth Town Council did not need to go far, looking just outside McGovern’s office door to tap town Assessor Matthew Sturgis.

According to a Jan. 12 press release issued by the council, Sturgis will pack up and move offices on Jan. 30, following a formal council vote on the new hire Jan. 18. Sturgis will be paid $110,000 plus benefits in his new job, a little less than the $123,000 paid to McGovern.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to help out in a new capacity in this great community I’ve had the pleasure of working for these past 16 years,” Sturgis said on Tuesday. “I’m really looking forward the next phase in my career. It’s a great town, and a great town council. Hopefully, the future is going to be very bright for all of us.”

Stugis, 48, has been Cape’s tax assessor since 2001. In 2015, he also took on assessing duties for the town of Scarborough as part of a shared services agreement between the two towns.

A 1991 graduate of Trinity University in Texas, with a degree in philosophy and political science, Sturgis also is on the executive board of the Greater Portland Council of Governments and the Maine Leadership Board of the American Lung Association of New England.

Sturgis lives in Gray, where he has been on the town council since 2011. He was chairman until Jan. 17, when he tendered his resignation to focus on his new job in Cape Elizabeth.

A certified property appraiser with his own company, Sturgis Appraisals, Sturgis formerly lived in New Gloucester, where he also was chairman of its board of selectmen.

“I think that experience of being on that side of the table will be very helpful in terms of anticipating the council’s needs and helping them to achieve their goals,” he said.

In addition to resigning his council post in Gray, Sturgis said he also will resign from his assessing job in Scarborough. However, he said he anticipates the two towns will continue to share assessing services, once his replacement is hired.

“We’re actively discussing that, tying to figure out what our relationship will be going forward, but it’s been successful as is to this point,” he said. “It’s something we’ll explore further, to continue maintaining that relationship.”

“My preference for assessing is to continue with a shared services arrangement with Cape Elizabeth,” said Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall on Wednesday. “Matt and I have discussed this option and we expect to finalize the recruitment strategy tomorrow (Jan. 19). At the same time I have requested a formal proposal from Cumberland County for the provision of assessing services so I have some options to consider.”

Hall said the Scarborough Town Council was expected at its Jan. 18 meeting to appoint Assistant Town Assessor Sue Russo as interim lead assessor until a replacement is found. Meanwhile, Scarborough will retain Sturgis as a “special deputy assessor” to assist with ongoing tax appeals cases.

Sturgis said he plans to spend the next few weeks introducing himself around town, despite the fact that his is already known, having served on several town committees in addition to his tax assessing duties.

“Believe it or not, there’s still a lot of relationship building that needs to go on,” he said. “Michael was such a great guy to work with and for, he had all of those relationships established, while I’m still a relatively unknown quantity, with people now looking at me in a different light than they were used to seeing me in the past.”

Sturgis said “job one” will be crafting the next municipal budget. For that, he’ll still have McGovern to lean on. Last fall, knowing of McGovern’s intent to retire at the end of the year, the council offered a contract to keep him on as a consultant to the new manager though the balance of the fiscal year.

“That is a great asset to have,” Sturgis said.

According to Don Gerrish of Eaton Peabody, the firm hired by the council to lead the town manager search, Sturgis beat out 38 applicants for the job.

Assistant Town Manager/Town Clerk Debra Lane will continue to serve as interim town manager until Sturgis takes up his new duties.

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