Wild West in the Deep Dark Woods of Maine

The story about the conflict between the Presque Isle city manager and the City Council there had to be a fun, but stressful story for Bangor Daily News staff writer Jen Lynds. (Here’s a link to the story: “Presque Isle tensions end tenure of manager: Friction with City Council spurs decision not to renew.”)

I mean, who doesn’t get a kick out of a about dysfunctional city government in which the City Council and a city official are at odds, especially to the point that one or more of them start wearing a gun to City Council meetings. (Yeah! A gun!)

I suppose it would have been an even better story if that armed city councilman had been the board’s chairman and had used the butt of the gun to call the meeting to order. Now that would have been something!

Tom Stevens, 54, had been the Presque Isle city manager for 17 years and now he is on his way out. (He’s got another government job lined up, so don’t feel too sorry for the guy.) City Council members claim they gave him a list of suggestions on how to bring innovation and jobs to the Aroostook County city. The City Council is ousting Stevens – they claim – because he ignored the mandate to bring in innovation and jobs.

He says he never got the list.

Here are the first two graphs from the story:

When a city councilor began wearing a gun to council meetings, City Manager Tom Stevens knew his problems were more complicated than ever.

Stevens, who is serving out the last weeks of a one-year renewal of what previously were multiyear contracts as city manager of Presque Isle, told the Bangor Daily News recently that his last years in his position were fraught with meetings of questionable legality among councilors, interference by councilors in the manager’s work, and contention about public safety at council meetings prompted by one councilor carrying a firearm.

Here’s a line deep in the story that I love. It’s sort of a “well, duh” moment:

Stevens said his relationship with the council grew worse around the time Councilor (Ron) McPherson began wearing a gun to meetings.

Apparently, Mr. McPherson has a carry permit and there is no law in Maine to prevent him from wearing a gun at meetings or in City Hall. But still …

The story tells of the turmoil over the past couple of years, but it is a bit of a “he said, they said” sort of tale and is missing the voice of someone from outside of government. It would have been a better story had it included some independent local observations and provided more historical perspective.

Frankly, it is small-town government at its dysfunctional best, but it is still very interesting.

I’ve read the story and I am not exactly who is in the right and who is simply crazy. Frankly, there may be too many, um, untruths on all sides for there to be a “right” side to this whole Wild West show in the Deep Dark Woods of Maine. It appears to be a truly dysfunctional situation and I hope that it works out for everyone.

(For my friends “from away,” Presque Isle – which I believe means “part island” or “almost island” – was the “big city” growing up. It is where we went for serious shopping, restaurants and medical care. It was about 45 to 60 minutes to drive there and where the nearest movie theater was located.)

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