Family matter calls Hangen south

14 years ago

Family matter calls Hangen south

By Kathy McCarty
Staff Writer
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Staff photo/Kathy McCarty

JOHN HANGEN ended his career as a public servant in October — having worked in both Caribou and Easton during his tenure — leaving his position as town manager of Easton to make the move to Florida with his wife, Ann, to be closer to his mother. Hangen said he’ll miss the community but family matters arose that led to his decision to move.

EASTON — Retirement has beckoned for the second time in as many years for John Hangen, who served as town manager of what he called “a thriving community, with wonderful citizens” until October of this year.
The decision was made of necessity, since Hangen’s mother, who resides in Florida, has developed health issues that require closer attention than he could not provide living so far away.
“One thing we don’t usually think about in life is elder care. My mother lives in Florida and has developed the early signs of dementia,” said Hangen. “My wife, Ann, and I decided we’d rather be three hours away than three days, in case of an emergency. We have a house 200 miles north of my mother.”
Hangen acknowledged life’s course changes directions at a moment’s notice.
“We’ll be snow birds. We plan to keep property here and travel to Maine from time to time. We’re hoping to talk mother into moving in with us,” he said.
Hangen had returned to the County two years ago when he first retired from public service.
“I left Caribou in 1983, after serving as executive director of the Aroostook Prestile Treatment District. During my years in Caribou, I secured funding for the Caribou and Presque Isle wastewater treatment plants and saw through construction at the facilities. I left for New Hampshire, where I worked for 22 years as public works director, then decided to return to Aroostook, purchasing a home in Fort Fairfield,” said Hangen. “Of all the places to settle, we chose here for the quality of people and the quality of life.”
Leaving a town he’s grown to love was a tough decision to make.
“I absolutely love the town and its employees. It’s with regret that I had to stop being manager,” said Hangen, noting the state could learn from Easton’s example.
“Maine would be so far better off if we had a microcosm of what Easton has: low taxes, great schools, sound industry, a small population and a very sound financial footing — the town has no debt,” said Hangen.
In addition, Hangen said he left office with a surplus account “that equates to about 30 percent of the total year’s operational expenses.”
Hangen said the credit’s not his to take for the community being in such good financial shape.
“A lot of people have made this happen, not just me. The entire town factors into it,” said Hangen, noting one thing the community lacked but wasn’t looking for was controversy. “Easton is a peaceful place to live and work.”
The Hangens hope to make it to Florida for Christmas.
“We’ll be glad to get down there, closer to my mother. That way she can still have her independence. We’ll go down a couple times a week to check in on her,” he said.
He’ll take with him many wonderful memories of his time as manager.
“Leaving Easton is a hard thing to do. It’s a wonderful town to be associated with. One of my proudest achievements was fitting into a highly respected team of employees. I felt I was one of them, not necessarily their boss. We had five employees all working on the same page. Working for the citizens is a great feeling — one I’ll miss,” said Hangen.
Hangen is also proud to note while the state and county went in one direction financially, Easton went in the opposite direction.
“It relates back to teamwork. The selectmen’s vision helps Easton’s citizens and industry base through maintaining a low tax rate and a good school system. That attributes to the town’s bottom line and quality of life,” said Hangen, adding taxes came down 27 percent during his tenure as manager.
He said in order to compete, communities and the businesses that call them home have to make up for the high cost of transportation and utilities.
“Municipalities and companies that exist in them have to think outside the box. That’s where the work ethic of northern Maine comes into play. We’re somehow doing it in Easton.
Hangen said he’s also proud of the volunteer fire department.
“The volunteers are there at every call, contributing in any effort needed and are self-starters. How can you beat that?” he said.
The educational system in Easton is another area Hangen said he’s pleased to have been involved with.
“What other town in the state of Maine guarantees scholarships for each student for four years? This past year each student received $3,800,” said Hangen. “There are rewards when you do that, including a happy family, since it eases the financial burden. And the child gets a better education. That investment translates to higher wages for the child’s lifetime.”
Hangen said it also instills the feeling in children that the community cares.
“The real reward is that the child may leave but will be more likely to return. A better education means a wealthier potential for our residents,” he said.
“All this is good stuff,” said Hangen. “A community’s wealth comes when its citizens feel appreciated — feel that town officials care about them.”
The Hangens also plan to do some traveling now that they’re retired.
“We have a son and daughter-in-law and five grandchildren in Washington State and hope to pay them a visit. We’re looking forward to getting the move over with and getting settled,” he said.
The move will be relatively easy, according to Hangen, since the couple plan to return in the spring.
“We have a storage facility we’ll empty that will partially furnish our place in Florida. The move won’t be too bad, just the drive,” said Hangen. “Ann and I are looking forward to getting settled into our Sebastian, Fla., home in time for Christmas. We wish all our friends here in The County happy holidays.”