Lifelong Southwest Harbor resident Jesse Gilley has been appointed as harbormaster. His focus is to make sure the town’s equipment and marine property are well maintained. ISLANDER PHOTO BY SARAH HINCKLEY

Gilley brings experience to harbormaster job

SOUTHWEST HARBOR  Jesse Gilley, 29, knows a thing or two about working on the water. 

But, last Friday, following a small snowfall, Gilley was behind the wheel of a snowplow, clearing a municipal parking lot. According to Gilley, assisting the town’s highway department during the colder months is listed in the harbormaster’s job description, a role he was recently appointed to by the Board of Selectmen.  

Gilley’s experience working on the water includes lobster fisherman, scallop fisherman, marine construction, boat mate and engineer, as well as oyster farming.  

Before taking the job in Southwest Harbor, Gilley was working on a scallop fishing boat out of New Bedford, Mass., going out on the water for up to two weeks at a time.  

“That’s pretty much what I’ve done my whole life,” he said about commercial fishing. “I got to run the boat, a 120-foot vessel.”  

In addition to working on the scallop boat, Gilley recently worked for Charles Bradley Construction for three years as a foreman. In that position, he was on the crew that worked to rebuild part of the town’s wharf in Tremont. Building docks, piers and moorings were some of Gilley’s responsibilities working for Wid Minctons’s company. 

As Southwest Harbor’s harbormaster, Gilley plans to use that experience in keeping the waterfront in good shape.  

“I care about the longevity of our town’s equipment,” said Gilley, noting that he is a taxpaying resident and intends to keep expenses low. “I just want to be up to date on maintenance.” 

One of the items on Gilley’s list as he learns the ropes is reconfiguring the mooring field. 

“A lot of fishermen have gotten bigger boats, so it’s changed the mooring field,” he explained.  

As part of his first week on the job, Gilley oversaw the recovery of a sailboat that had broken free of its mooring and was resting at the head of the harbor.  

“It had drifted up on a pretty soft place,” he said. Gilley took photos and videos in case they were needed.  

It was the U.S. Coast Guard that ultimately rescued the vessel that had eventually drifted out to Greening Island.  

Adam Thurston served for 10 years as the town’s harbormaster before taking a position as the deputy harbormaster in Mount Desert. He was the one who tipped Gilley off about the open position.  

“I can call him and pick his brain, which makes for an easy transition,” said Gilley.  

After Thurston’s departure, former Town Manager Justin VanDongen recommended a deputy harbormaster be hired part time in Southwest Harbor to assist during the busy summer months. Gilley, who has a toddler son, will likely be grateful for the help since he and his wife are expecting a second child in June.  

“I’m just an avid outdoorsman and really enjoy family time,” he said about life outside of work.  


Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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