BUCKFIELD — Brad Plante has embraced the challenge of not only running Buckfield in the interim, but analyzing how the town operates and offering suggestions to selectmen.
The Poland resident began working as interim town manager on Tuesday, Aug. 1, and his contract ends Jan. 31, 2018. He is paid $1,500 a week. Plante was hired as interim town manager and a consultant, who will also assist selectmen in their town manager search.
“They’ve given me six months. … By the end of January I have to wrap this thing up,” he said recently from his new digs in the Buckfield Town Office. “[I will] assist them as we’re starting to wind down in [their] search for a permanent town manager and part of the deal was I was told they would not expect me to apply.”
And that is fine with Plante, as he was not looking for a permanent gig in Buckfield.
“This was a good opportunity. It is kind of a unique situation because the project they wanted me to do. I think the fact that I have worked in several other communities – they’re all different – that experience and that knowledge will work well with what they’re trying to do here,” he said. “It kind of fit for me, it fit for them. It seemed like a win-win for both.”
Most recently, Plante served as Poland’s town manager for three years. He left that town at the end of March after opting to not renew his contract.
“I’m really kind of at the end of my career. I really wasn’t real keen on taking on another three-year contract,” he said. “[Serving temporarily in Buckfield] sort of works in my plan. I will be eligible for Social Security next year.”
Currently, Plante is learning who is who in town, meeting with department heads and employees and getting a sense of how things run.
“I have to get an understanding of how it works first before I can do anything or analyze,” he said. “I’m not really here to make any changes in ways that business is being conducted; this is not how I see this. … If it’s something that needs adjustment, some blatant safety thing, I will make an adjustment.
“Really this is more of looking what’s going on, making recommendations to the board of things I think they can do better,” he continued. “I am not here to change the world. That is not the role I think they want.”
And what better way of figuring out exactly what selectmen are looking for than by having a workshop? Plante and the board scheduled the workshop on his first day on the job and the workshop was held Wednesday, Aug. 9.
There, Plante garnered details of what selectmen want and figured out how they would go about it. They hammered out a time line for his consulting work and spoke with selectmen about setting up the first public hearing where businesses and the public would be invited to give their input. The hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, in the upstairs conference room at the Town Office at 34 Turner St. This is part of the data collection, he said.
“I would really like to get input from boards and committees,” Plante said.
He wondered what the final analysis product is that selectmen want. They told him at last week’s workshop they wanted a report and a draft of a governance policy.
“We may have put it out and have a final public hearing and let the people tell us what they think of it,” he said.
While Plante promised he would not metamorphose the town while there, he did plan on making a few small changes. This includes changing the format of the selectmen’s meeting agendas and adding a town manager’s report. The latter will highlight recent goings on in town or update the status of pending issues.
“It’s to give [selectmen] a better idea of what’s going on. It’s to give the general public an idea of what we do. They all think we sit here and drink coffee all day, but we’re actually pretty busy,” he said.
Plante noted this is the smallest community he has worked since retiring from the Army in 1993 as a military police officer. He said he’s used to having a little more staff, including someone preparing the meeting agendas and taking minutes.
“It is a little bit of a challenge,” Plante said. “My first job in Rockland, Massachusetts, I had a staff, just in the Town Office, of 21 people.”
Prior to retiring from the military, Plante earned his master’s in public administration from Jacksonville State University, which is part of Alabama’s university system. He worked in the private sector for a while and then his first stint in the public sector was serving as a selectman in North Attleborough, Massachusetts.
His first public administration gig was in Rockland, Massachusetts, which he called a “tough town” with “a couple of murders every year.” There, he witnessed a suspect running away after robbing a bank in broad day light.
“I see this guy running by holding a bag of money,” Plante said, adding then came the sirens.
“Where is Jesse James when you need him?” he said, laughing.
He then served as Harrison’s town manager just shy of three years. He met his future wife in Raymond and they tried to retire in Arizona, which didn’t work out. So they came back to the East Coast where he worked in Hampstead, Maryland, which had a town council/mayor form of government he thought was “terrific.”
When his wife wanted to come home to Maine to be closer to family, he landed the town manager job in Poland.
So what does Plante do when he’s not busy running towns?
“I love classic cars. I’ve done that pretty much my whole life. … Right now I’m into British sports cars,” he said, adding he owns a 1977 MGB Roadster convertible he purchased from a retired doctor in Norway. “Usually I get them in decent shape so most of them need some TLC. I have restored a couple. I am kind of beyond that now. … I want to drive them.”
And when he’s not hitting the road in his convertible with the wind blowing in his hair, Plante plays drums in a Christian band at East Auburn Baptist Church. He said the music has a Christian theme, but it’s played more like rock ‘n’ roll with drums, bass, guitars and sometimes the keyboard and other instruments.
“We play every other weekend. In fact, I have practice tonight,” he said Thursday, Aug. 3. “I’ve played since I was 12 years old. … I enjoy it. I am in my 60s, I will admit that much. I’ve played over 50 years.”