By Henriette Chacar
TREMONT — Christopher Saunders is set to begin work as town manager here Jan. 17, following his appointment Monday at a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen. His two-year contract runs through January 2020.
A public reception for members of the community to meet him is set for Tuesday, Jan. 16, following the selectmen’s meeting.
Board Chair Kevin Buck said each of the selectmen was impressed with Saunders. “He’s not the most experienced we’ve interviewed, but we think he’s going to be a really good match for the town of Tremont. We have faith he’s going to do a good job and fit in with the town well. We’re pleased to hire him.”
Saunders, 30, moved to Maine in September after his wife, Dr. Grace Price, accepted a position as a family physician at the Community Health Center in Southwest Harbor. They live on MDI together with their cat, Penny.
Most recently, Saunders served as a management assistant at the town manager’s office in Marana, Ariz., serving a population of about 45,000 people. He worked on a variety of projects, including communications for the town’s finance department and setting up a new animal services department.
The role provided Saunders with “a broad look at all the different functions of a municipality,” he said, “and how one goes about administering each and every one of them.
He grew up in Glendale, Calif., and attended Brown University, where he met his wife. They moved to Arizona, where Saunders graduated from the University of Arizona with a master’s degree in public administration, with the goal of becoming a town manager in mind.
“In some ways, it’s the moment I’ve been working for, and now I can put everything I’ve been learning to the test,” he said.
Saunders worked as a high school English teacher in Providence, R.I, from 2010-2014. The school he worked at included many different ethnic groups and cultures, which he found inspiring. But the school also faced tremendous challenges, and the institutional obstacles particularly stood out to him.
Tremont, however, is a stable, positive community, he said. Saunders hopes to work across different levels of government to make sure the residents of Tremont are being served best.
“A small business owner [on] MDI doesn’t really care whether a service is provided by the town of Tremont or the state of Maine. They are interested in whether the system works for them, and that’s what I aim to achieve,” he said.
His first priority will be preparing the budget for the selectmen to review before it goes to voters at the upcoming town meeting, that, and making sure the roads are plowed safely, “while using taxpayer dollars prudently in that process,” he said.
To ensure a smooth transition, Saunders will work with current Town Manager Dana Reed several days this week and the next.
Reed “sent me home with quite a bit of homework,” Saunders said, which he will be brushing up on until he steps into the new role.