Limestone residents hope new manager can be positive force for change

9 months ago

LIMESTONE, Maine — Limestone is putting its faith in a leader who has no experience but who says he wants to help the town grow.

In June, Limestone’s Select Board hired Alvin Lam, 32, as the town’s new manager. Lam, a former real estate manager, has no experience as a town manager or municipal employee and said he will donate his entire $80,000 salary back to the town.

It’s an unusual situation for a town that has dealt with high manager turnover. In seven years, the town has seen 11 managers come and go, most of them as temporary fill-ins. Prior to Lam, the town hired Tara Henderson but she stayed on less than a year, citing burnout as a reason for leaving.

Henderson had not worked in municipalities before. That made Select Board members determined to find someone with town management experience. They rejected five candidates in January who they said did not meet their expectations.

Lam was one of two candidates the second time around, putting the board in a similar scenario as last time, said Select Board Vice Chair Chris Durepo.

Durepo said that a conversation with Fort Fairfield’s interim manager, Dan Foster, inspired the board’s reasons for choosing Lam.

“[Foster] said, ‘You’re never going to find someone with municipal experience. That just doesn’t happen anymore. You want someone who has been successful,’” Durepo said.

Before moving to Limestone in 2021, Lam worked for commercial mortgage and real estate companies in Portland and Auburn. His successful real estate ventures in multi-family housing and commercial properties could make him ideal for leading economic development projects in town, Durepo said.

Limestone’s new town manager Alvin Lam (left) speaks with Select Board Vice Chair Chris Durepo. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

That can also make Lam a great person to help the town’s business community, said Limestone Chamber of Commerce President Michelle Albert. 

“He has been part of our Chamber and [Limestone] Development Foundation meetings and events for the last couple of years,” Albert said. “We’re excited to work with him and explore some new ideas.”

So far, many residents have said they do not have concerns about Lam’s lack of municipal experience.

Penny Michaud, a 15-year Limestone resident, met Lam at the town’s annual budget meeting and said she appreciates his willingness to listen to residents’ questions and concerns.

“We’ve had town managers with past experience who didn’t work out. Everybody needs to learn somewhere,” Michaud said. “He seems willing to learn and go find the answers to questions.”

Michael Maynard is a newer resident, having been in Limestone less than two years, but said he hopes Lam’s real estate background could help the town attract more people and businesses.

“I just want to see what he does for the town,” Maynard said. 

When asked about his long-term goals, Lam said he is still learning about many of the town’s challenges from conversations with the Select Board and residents.

But in the future, he would like to see Limestone possibly develop a training program for young municipal employees. That way, aspiring leaders can jumpstart their careers while gaining experience, he said.

Future success will largely depend on him and the town being open to new ideas, Lam said.

“I think I bring a fresh perspective and can think outside the box,” Lam said.