Caribou’s long-time tax assessor named next city manager

3 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine — Penny Thompson has been named Caribou’s next city manager. The 11-year city tax assessor has been serving as the interim manager following Dennis Marker’s departure in June.

Thompson said that she’s hoping to bring neighborly sensibilities to the office and wants to prioritize her relationship with Caribou’s residents. In a highly technical and specialized role like that of the city manager, Thompson said good communication and a love of public service make all the difference.

The hire was announced at a July 26 meeting of the city council. Her contract is still in negotiation, according to Mayor Jody Smith, but the decision is final. Councilors celebrated the choice at the meeting, praising Thompson’s commitment to the city and its people.

“By far, hands down, you’re a great choice,” Councilor Mark Goughan said. “You should be proud of the work you’ve done.” 

Thompson said that before she was tapped for the interim position earlier this year, she hadn’t considered the possibility of becoming city manager one day. But after getting acquainted with the duties of the manager and consulting her family, Thompson decided to take the plunge. 

Having spent more than a decade in public service, she said giving back to the people of Caribou has been an intensely motivating experience, and drove her to accept the position.

“Sometimes when I leave here and it’s midnight … I’m thinking why am I doing this to myself,” Thompson said. “And then someone comes up to me and says something nice and it’s all worth it. If you can improve somebody’s life, is there any higher calling than that?” 

Thompson is a fixture at city hall even late at night and on weekends, and her colleagues praise her dedication to public service and unshakable work ethic. 

 Events & Marketing director Christina Kane-Gibson has worked alongside Thompson for years, and now counts her as a close friend. She said Thompson is one of Caribou’s most committed town employees, and that she was thrilled to see her rise to the top of the city’s administrative structure.

Every thought, every plan, everything she does is a reflection of her civic duty and servant’s heart,” Kane-Gibson said. “You can rest assured that every decision she will make will be well thought out and thoroughly researched.”

The city manager’s role is broad and managerial. Rather than setting Caribou’s policies and agendas, the manager acts as a go-between for the council and the rest of city government. 

Caribou has 72 full-time employees in more than a dozen departments. While Thompson is familiar with some of these areas she’ll oversee, others are totally new to her. The city manager, for example, is technically the airport manager — it’s an aspect of her job she said she’s still trying to wrap her head around.

A self-professed knowledge junkie, Thompson said she doesn’t mind having such a wide-reaching position. 

“I can see myself being an old person and going to a 12-step program for people addicted to learning new things,” she said.

As for the people of Caribou, Thompson said they’re at the heart of what she does. She wants to implement an open-door policy so that residents and people working in city government know that she’s willing to lend an ear. 

Kane-Gibson said Thompson’s neighborly manner is something residents can come to expect. 

“If you don’t know Penny personally, let me tell you, she is dying to meet you,” Kane-Gibson said. “She makes it her mission to meet all community members and learn their individual stories. You will find her at nearly every city event, including our city booth at Thursdays on Sweden Street.”