Owls Head Select Board airs the complaints they receive, the challenges of volunteer government
OWLS HEAD — Owls Head Select Board member Linda Post, who has lived in this area all of her life, and in Owls Head for 50 years, can understand why people move here – the harbor, the airport, the small-town life.
“We’ve had traditions for a hundred years,” said Post. Yet, “it seems like they come here and they think they should tell us how to run things.”
This seems to happen more and more, she said.
Two of the three current Select Board members recently vented some of their frustrations regarding attempts by newcomers to change Owls Head and the way the town is governed.
Owls Head was founded on fishermen, farmers, and the people who support those fishermen and farmers – running a business, running a boatyard, doing everything else.
The Select Board has received complaints [the majority of which come from retirees] on not only the airport – that’s been going on for a long time, according to Post – but about the harbor and the working waterfront that many find so idyllic from afar.
For instance, people have complained about the smell of the wharves and the bait.
“That’s part of fishing,” said Post.
They complain about boats leaving the harbor early in the morning.
Post acknowledges that the early morning boats are loud, the fishermen talk loud because the engines run loud, and their language is probably salty.
There have also been complaints because some people don’t believe fishermen should leave their traps and their boats in their yards at the end of the season.
“I never can understand why people don’t do their due diligence, find out what this town is about before they jump in and try to change everything, like we don’t know what we’ve been doing for a hundred years,” said Post.
Then, there’s the Select Board and its meetings. Members were recently subjected to a lecture from a part-time, short-term resident who stood before them and told them that Select Board members were violating rules by sitting at a table in front of the room, facing the audience. As she tapped a paper document, she told members that they were supposed to sit among the audience, “to be just like everyone else,” said outgoing Chair Gordon Page in recollection of the lecture.
At the time, “it was inferred by me that she was holding something that made sense and it was something with the statute,” said Page.
But afterward, Page conducted his own research online and with the Maine Municipals Association, and found that there is no policy anywhere that dictates where Select Board members must sit.
“It’s not easy being a Select Board member,” said Page. “And it’s getting increasingly more difficult, which is one of the reasons why I was a proponent of setting up a task force to explore and research the veracity of the good sense or bad sense of having a Town Manager.”
Basically, in the absence of a Town Manager, the Select Board is the Town Manager, according to Page. Staff runs the day to day operations based on direction of problems. The Select Board operates based on information shared with them by the staff and the residents during meetings.
Page completed his final meeting Aug. 21, 2023 as a member of the Select Board. For the past two years, he’s acted as Chair. Through it all, he’s said multiple times that being a Select Board member is supposed to be about streetlights and potholes.
“It’s not supposed to be about monitoring the poor behavior of 70 or 75 year old volunteers who can’t get along,” he said. “I’ll raise my hand and say yes, I’m a lightning rod because I ask a lot of questions, and I question status quo a lot.”
However, over the past five years, the Select Board has been subjected to what Page refers to as threats of innuendo by people who are known to spread rumors of innuendo.
“Overall it’s been interesting and fun and rewarding,” said Page. But, “I’m not going to miss it very much.”
Reach Sarah Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org