Hazlett reflects on town manager tenure

12 years ago

By Joseph Cyr
Staff Writer

    HOULTON — Doug Hazlett is proud of many things the town accomplished during his seven-year tenure.
    The biggest accomplishment he is proud of, however, is difficult to quantify. It is a matter of perception and changing the way Houlton may have been viewed by others around the state.
    “I feel that Houlton has changed its image to the rest of the world,” Hazlett said. “We need to be more pro-business. We need to be open to job creation and new businesses coming here, because that is really the best way to create jobs and control taxes. I’d much rather see the town collect more taxes on new buildings, than increasing the amount of taxes collected from individuals already living here.”
Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Joseph Cyr
NE-Hazlett-dc-pt-13OPEN HOUSE — Former Houlton Town Manager Doug Hazlett, right, speaks with Mike and Debbie Clark during his farewell Open House Friday afternoon.

    Hazlett’s last day as town manager was Friday and an open house was held at the town council chambers for residents to come and say farewell. Assistant Town Manager Cathy O’Leary has been named the interim town manager effective March 23. O’Leary has served in this capacity before.
    Hazlett was lured back into the world of insurance. He has taken a job with Maine Mutual Group in Presque Isle.
    “It was an opportunity to go back into the business that I came from,” he said. “I’m going to be a senior business consultant, which means I will be working on a variety of new projects.”
    Hazlett said he believes he has worked very well with each council, even though some of the names and faces changed during his tenure.
    “The council came on board really early in my tenure in 2005 and was very supportive,” he said. “I’m happy with the fact that I have worked well with all of the councils here.”
    One of the more difficult aspects of serving as a town manager is serving many masters, Hazlett said. The town manager answers directly to the town council and on any given year, at least two seats on that board are up for election.
    “You have to be adaptable and make sure everyone is seeing things the same way,” he said. “There is a lot of clarity around what the role of the council is. It requires a great deal of communication, but I never had any issues with a councilor who felt they had more authority than they did.”
    While there were some times he and the council did not always see eye-to-eye on a particular subject matter, the end result was a unified approach once a vote was taken.
    “It’s impossible in a municipal environment not to have a few thorny issues,” he said. “The challenge is how to deal with them. At the end of the day, the big picture is ‘Where is Houlton going? And what do we need to do to get on that track?’”
    A few of the other projects he was proud to see come to fruition were the creation of a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district along the North Road; construction/repair to multiple town sidewalks; and investing in the infrastructure of the town through energy efficiency changes made to many town-owned buildings.
    Hazlett said there was a fair share of controversy surrounding the council when he came on board, but he did not let that deter him from his goal of putting Houlton on the proper track.
    Hazlett said he and his wife Kim (Lilley) were drawn to Houlton because her family lived in town. The couple bought property in Houlton several years before they actually moved to town. At the time, they were living in Hartford, Conn. where he was employed with the Hartford Insurance Company for 31 years.
    “I was retired for two or three years when I decided I kind of missed working,” Hazlett said. “We had visited Houlton many times in those 31 years and I always liked the people and the pace. I’ve worked in Manhattan (N.Y.), Hartford and Boston. There was something very nice about the politeness and down to earth nature of people here.”
    Hazlett added he has come to learn that the people of Houlton are “tremendously hard working folks.”
    There were no parting words of wisdom he could offer to the staff at the town office or his successor.
    “There’s no advice I can give them,” he joked. “They know more about running this town than I do.”