Friday, August 19, 2022

State public administrators honor Tibbetts with 2022 Leadership Award

Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts, left, accepts the
Maine Town, City and County Management Association's
2022 Leadership Award from MTCMA President Jey Feyler
during the association's convention Aug. 10 at Sugarloaf.
By Ed Pierce 

Windham’s Town Manager Barry Tibbetts was honored with the Maine Town, City and County Management Association’s 2022 Leadership Award during the association’s convention Aug. 10 at Sugarloaf.

The annual award is presented to recognize a Public Administrator in the state for a particularly bold and innovative project or for solving an unusually difficult problem. The recipient must have played a key role in developing the project as well as in implementing it. Over the past year, Tibbetts has played a substantial and pivotal role in Windham’s wastewater treatment solution for North Windham, development of a connector road system to alleviate traffic congestion in the Route 302 corridor and Windham’s approval of the East Windham Conservation Project where hundreds of acres were conserved by the town for recreational use.

In nominating Tibbetts for the prestigious award, Windham Town Council members and Bob Burns, Windham assistant town manager, representing Windham town staff, wrote that Tibbetts stepped up and led the way for Windham in getting these major projects off the ground in the last year.

“These achievements that needed Barry’s motivation, tutelage and leadership are wins for him and major wins for the Town of Windham and its residents,” Burns said. 

Jarrod Maxfield, Windham Town Council chair, agrees with that assessment.

“For too long Windham has been stagnant in terms of progress and development for success. We would often remark we are the ‘Town of Studies because we would study projects for years and then shelve them or not get the project over the finish line for one reason or another,” Maxfield said. “This pattern over the decades was not a positive thing for Windham and held us back from moving forward and creating opportunities. The day Barry showed up, that attitude and pattern ended, and we have not looked back as we move forward.”

Maxfield said Tibbetts’ wisdom and experience is exceptional in his role as Windham Town Manager.

“It is hard to think of how one man can move a boulder that has sat for so long but in Barry’s case it comes down to leadership, energy, out of the box thinking and a positivity that gets things done, not just talking about getting things done, but actually getting them done,” he said. “He helped foster a better environment for Windham employees after some years of turmoil and empowered them to finally get those things done. He gave them the foundation to know that if a roadblock occurred, as it will, they had his support, and he would help find a solution. He is a kind, positive and energetic person who makes those around him better and creates success by being there.”

In June, Windham voters attending the Annual Town Meeting approved a proposal for the town join a partnership with Presumpscot Regional Land Trust to purchase and conserve 661 acres near Little Duck Pond in East Windham in a project called the East Windham Conservation Project. It will acquire forested acreage for recreational opportunities in Windham while also adding 1,545 feet of undeveloped water frontage on Little Duck Pond, the 150-acre Deer Wintering Area for hunting, and the 580-foot Atherton Hill, the tallest hill in Windham. As part of the project, Lands for Maine’s Future awarded Windham $998,000 to help fund the initiative and voters approved a bond to match the LMF award with town open space impact fees so there will be no impact upon the mil rate for local homeowners.

Also in June, a town referendum for a proposed $40.4 million sewer and wastewater treatment project for North Windham was approved by 71 percent of voters after a different sewer proposal was rejected by Windham voters 10 years ago. The project will not raise taxes and all but $500,000 is covered to pay for the initiative through a combination of grant funding, a $38.9 million award by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and North Windham TIF funding supported by North Windham businesses. Under the project, a new wastewater treatment facility on the grounds of Manchester School will be built and addresses pressing environmental issues by removing thousands of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus being dumped by septic systems into the aquifer and watershed. It also is intended to stimulate significant economic growth and development in the North Windham area from industry and businesses not willing to locate there previously because of septic system issues and associated costs.

As town manager, Tibbetts also is leading an effort to alleviate persistent traffic congestion in North Windham along Route 302 through creation of a system of new access roads and sophisticated high-tech traffic signals. In January the Windham Town Council adopted a study that puts forward a phased plan to build connector roads in the next few years. For years, heavy traffic during peak travel times remains a problem along Route 302 from the intersection of Route 115 to Franklin Road and causes congestion, motorist delays and a high accident rate for motorists in the town. The issue has been studied repeatedly for years, but now a potential solution is at hand.

Tibbetts has served as Windham’s Town Manager since November 2019, first on an interim basis and then was made the permanent town manager since March 2020. He has extensive municipal experience and experience in local government, administrative operations, budgeting, regulatory functions, and community relations and served as the Kennebunk Town Manager through 2017.

Upon his retirement with Kennebunk and coming to Windham, Tibbetts worked with a small energy start-up business and developed a consulting business in energy and governmental services. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Southern Maine, and he also earned an MBA degree during his career in government. He also holds credentialed certifications from both the ICMA and MCTMA.

In learning he had won the award, Tibbetts said he was humbled and caught off guard.

“I was totally surprised by the Windham team, they did a great job in keeping it undercover until it was announced,” Tibbetts said. “It was an honor to receive this statewide award from the MTCMA with the recognition of the Windham Town Council and town staff. Since beginning in Windham two years ago, the council and staff as a team has been working toward addressing critical infrastructure needs which have been accumulating over the past. The timing is right, and Windham has great staff and council to get the work done. It been a pleasure to serve the council, staff and residents. <

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