OAKFIELD – As a town manager, James Smith doesn’t have a chisel or molding clay in his office.
But Smith wants to use all of the tools that he does have to help the people of Oakfield shape the town into what they would like it to be.
Smith, 31, sat down for an interview late last week, just as he was wrapping up his fourth week on the job as Oakfield’s manager.
“So far, everything has been great,” he said. “I have been out to meet people and the selectmen have been very supportive. It has been nice.”
He succeeds Darrell Williams, who resigned in April.
Smith, who has a home in Greenbush, is renting an apartment in the area on a temporary basis and commuting to see his wife and three children on the weekends.
Smith is no stranger to Aroostook County, having grown up a short distance away in Island Falls. He graduated from Southern Aroostook Community School in Dyer Brook and is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He also worked for the city of Brewer.
The new manager said that he is looking to the people to tell him what they would like to see happen in their town.
“I think that Oakfield has enormous potential,” he said. “My plans for the town are the people’s plans. Whatever the people of Oakfield decide that they need is what we are going to do. The citizens should decide what they want the town to look like in the future and then we can get to work fulfilling that vision.”
Smith has visited several local businesses and is optimistic about the town’s economy. He pointed to Katahdin Forest Products as an example of a business that is thriving and growing within the community. The Oakfield-based firm manufactures cedar homes, camps and condominiums and employs some 100 people.
He added that the town is a magnet for ATV and snowmobile enthusiasts, and tagged the money that riders pump into the economy through gasoline, restaurant and convenience store purchases as advantageous.
“There are many things that we can do to help both our local businesses and our economy,” Smith said. “I think that one of them is to go to our business owners and ask ‘what do you need for resources?’ Economic development is always a funny business …. You can grow a town, but you have to make sure that your businesses are healthy.”
Moving the town forward is now Smith’s primary goal.
The municipality has not yet conducted its annual meeting, and Smith said that he hopes to do so by the end of October.