The Southwest Harbor town manager since June 2018, Justin VanDongen works closely with the town’s staff to carry out policies enacted by the town’s select board. He likes spending time with his three daughters, whom he has taught how to fish on freshwater. PHOTO BY BRIAN SWARTZ

Put a face on it: Southwest Harbor Town Manager Justin VanDongen



An upstate New York native, Southwest Harbor Town Manager Justin VanDongen majored in political science at SUNY New Paltz and “lived in Massachusetts for a little while” after graduation. Visiting Maine on weekends, he relished the state’s slower pace of life, so he soon transferred to Bath as a Lowe’s zone manager.

After working as the administrative assistant for the Town of Pittston, he became the assessor for Bath and then Bar Harbor. “I’d always wanted to live in this area since I visited it in the late ’90s,” Justin said. “The [Acadia National] park, the island community, an economically vibrant area with a laid back lifestyle: It’s one’s of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.

“This is a beautiful place to live and to work,” he said.

Named the SWH town manager in June 2018, Justin took over from Don Lagrange, who became the town’s code-enforcement officer. Justin reports directly to the selectmen and also serves as a Southwest Harbor Water & Sewer District trustee.

“I’m the person who carries out the policies the select board decides,” he said. “I’ve always been somebody who likes to solve problems. Issues come up,” often with “the flow of the seasons. It’s parking in the summer, plowing” and drainage-related issues in winter and early spring. Working with town personnel — he praised the office staff and “our great road crew” — Justin likes to develop “creative solutions” to particular issues.

“Counting on a quart [of maple syrup] a tree,” Justin tapped 85 maple trees trees where he lives in Lamoine this past March, the first time he has done so.

He has three daughters. “They’re great kids,” Justin said. “I enjoy taking them freshwater fishing; Graham Lake is usually where I fish.” He taught his girls how to fish with artificial lures.

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