For 10 years, Jon Duke has been overseeing town government in the small rural town of Hope. Come July 5, however, he will be at a new desk in downtown Newcastle, the village that sits right across the bridge from Damariscotta.
“It’s been a great run in Hope, and genuinely positive,” he said June 10.
But, the Rockport native is ready for a new experience, and looks forward to working in what he said is “a town on the rise, with innovative and interesting things happening.”
Newcastle has approximately 1,752 (circa 2010 census) residents, a small bustling downtown, and a commercial Route 1 that includes a Reny’s distribution center, and a brewing company.
The selectmen there are expected to announce this evening their hiring of Duke at a regularly scheduled meeting.
“We had looked at Jon’s resume in our last town administrator search,” said Brian Foote, chairman of Newcastle’s five-member board of selectmen. “He just shines.”
Foote cited Duke’s experience with municipal economic development, as well as land use ordinance and comprehensive plan development.
The Newcastle board declined to renew current Town Administrator Lynn Maloney’s contract when they met in executive session March 28. She had worked for the town for 24 years, beginning there as town clerk. She became administrator in 2014.
Duke, who has been a Rockport Select Board member, as well as town administrator, has mixed feelings about leaving Hope, a town with approximately 1,536 residents (2010 census). Over the last 15 years, the town has been one of the fastest growing municipalities in Maine, at a time when many other towns in the state have watched their populations shrink.
“A lot of people love the rural life, the school, and the neighbors,” he said.
Duke arrived in Hope when the town was trying to transition from a rural farming community to one with defined centers. Hope Corner now has a restaurant, a general store, a school and arts center, a new fire station and other small enterprises.
On June 5, Duke wrote to the town:
“After over a decade of work on behalf of the Town of Hope, it is time for me to say goodbye. I have been offered, and graciously accepted, the position of Town Administrator in the Town of Newcastle. Therefore, I must resign as the Town Administrator, Code Enforcement Officer, Local Plumbing Inspector, and General Assistance Administrator. While this will be a great opportunity for me to explore new horizons, it is a bit bittersweet to be moving on from Hope.
“The Town of Hope gave me my start in the world of municipal management, and I will always be grateful for that opportunity. I have had the opportunity to learn so much from so many co-workers, Selectmen, board and committee members, and residents. Growing up in Rockport, I had no idea what a true treasure the Town of Hope is, and I am glad to have had the chance to work on the behalf of those who make this community a special place. The accomplishments of the last ten years have been significant: constructing a new fire station, conducting the first property re-valuation in 20 years, renovating the Town Office building, re-writing the Land Use Ordinance, and maintaining a stable tax rate in the face of increasing challenges from state government and higher costs for good and services. While all of those items came while I was the Hope’s Town Administrator, it took many many hours of hard work by numerous individuals to get us over the finish line on each one. I am proud to say that our work made Hope a better place than the one I found over ten years ago.
“My one wish is that more Hope residents will get involved to ensure the decisions that are made by Town leaders represent their own views and vision of the future. Hope needs more residents to have their voices heard and help those already in charge to continue to make Hope the great place that it is. Whether you are happy with things as they are or wish them to be something else, Town government provides numerous opportunities to make your community better. Please get involved!
“My last day of work for the Town of Hope will be July 1, but I would be glad to help the Town in any way that I can following my departure.
Town Administrator, Code Enforcement Officer, Local Plumbing Inspector, General Assistance Administrator”