Editorial: Elect or appoint? 

In 2018, a total of 478 voters — roughly 1 percent of those registered in Hancock County — determined Michael Boucher was the right man for the job of county treasurer. There were no candidates for the post on the ballot that year. Boucher ran as a write-in candidate. So did the county’s finance coordinator, who lost by 74 votes.

Boucher did not have any professional finance or bookkeeping experience when he took the position overseeing a multimillion-dollar budget, but said he was eager to learn. That has not panned out. As treasurer, Boucher is a “non-entity,” says Bill Clark, chairman of the county commissioners. Boucher’s services to the county at this point are largely ceremonial, including signing off on paperwork. For that, he collects a $200 weekly salary plus health insurance.

Boucher says he was working to get up to speed but that when he started to initiate changes in his department, he was prevented from fulfilling the tasks of his elected role and his pay was cut.

Any way you crunch the numbers, it is a mess. It does not have to be that way.

Others in county government, pointing to the complexities of modern budgets and the need for professional expertise in managing them, have long advocated for Hancock County to transition from an elected treasurer to an appointed one. By Maine law, treasurers are elected unless voters decide otherwise. Voters, understandably, are reluctant to cast ballots in favor of extinguishing that very right. The commissioners tried to make the change in 2005, but it was voted down.

But what the commissioners seek is not outlandish or even uncommon. Cities, including Bar Harbor, employ finance directors. So do school districts. Elected officials routinely rely on employees to inform their governance and to draft budgets for their review and final approval.

Currently, Hancock County Administrator Scott Adkins and the finance coordinator — both appointed — keep the county’s books in order. But shouldering that work prevents Adkins from doing other things.

Were the county to advertise for a treasurer or finance manager, the requirements would likely be long and tailored to the job. The only requirement for running for elected county treasurer? Being an adult who lives in Hancock County. Even with that low bar, the only candidates in the last race were write-ins.

The commissioners are elected to oversee all aspects of county government and to ultimately approve the budget. If they say the office of treasurer is impeding their work, we should listen. We support them exploring the creation of a county charter making the treasurer an appointed role.

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