HERMON — Acknowledging she’d be a tough act to follow, the Town Council on Wednesday night reluctantly accepted the resignation of Town Manager Kathryn Ruth, effective July 5.
Ruth, who has been town manager for nine years, will become town manager in Topsham, with a population of about 10,000. The town is next door to Bowdoinham, where Ruth’s career as a town manager began 11 years ago.
A native of Freeport, Ruth said she wanted to be near her family, especially her mother who is in her 60s and needs extra attention.
She called her new position “a unique opportunity … to work with a large, progressive community with a lot of economic development.” She said she was looking forward to working with some of the same people she dealt with when she was town manager in Bowdoinham.
Ruth said Wednesday that she had notified councilors of her decision to move on last weekend but had asked them to keep the news under wraps so as not to detract from Tuesday’s town meeting.
Councilors were visibly distressed at Ruth’s departure. They lauded her for her professionalism, her attention to detail and her boundless energy.
“We surely will miss your expertise,” said Chairman Walter Munn.
“You worked 18 years in the nine you were here,” said Councilor Robert Duran, who was chairman of the council when Ruth was hired. “It’s just not possible to replace your dedication.”
“It’s going to be our loss and [Topsham’s] gain,” agreed Councilor Anthony Smen.
The town manager herself was teary-eyed.
“I’ll miss the people here the most,” said Ruth. “I really like it here. This is very traumatic for me.”
Councilor John Maynard asked half-jokingly, “What if we refuse to accept” the resignation?
Ruth, 37, with her trademark braid and ready grin, was surely a welcome sight to any resident who entered the town office. No matter who asked her how she was, the answer was always the same: “Oh, just peachy!”
A graduate of Freeport High School, Ruth received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration from the University of Maine.
Ruth, who interned with the towns of Freeport and Brunswick, spent two years as town manager in Bowdoinham before being hired in 1988 as Hermon town manager to replace Carl Kosobud.
Ruth said she was proud of what she was leaving in Hermon.
Under her guidance, the town’s fiscal management has improved, a variety of grants was received and a goal-setting process and road-acceptance program were created.
Ruth also helped build a viable economic development program, in which a business visitation project and a low-interest loan program for Hermon businesses were established.
“You’ve helped the town grow,” said Councilor Harold Mailman.
Councilor Don Shepley, meanwhile, remembered the positive comments he received as he campaiged for the state Legislature last fall.
“The only ones who were really satisfied were those living in Hermon,” he said. “That’s because of who is running the town.”
Ruth said Wednesday that she “always felt right at home” in Hermon. She said her involvement in the Hermon Kiwanis, in the local historical society and in the Ecotat Trust land preservation (the town’s ecological sanctuary) allowed her to get to know the people whose friendships came to mean so much.
“The citizens were most definitely the reason why I remained in Hermon for so long,” she wrote in her letter of resignation.
Councilors agreed to establish an 11-member search committee in which Councilors Maynard, Mailman and Munn would be involved. They said they hoped a new town manager would be on board by September.