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Potato Blossom Festival Director Stepping Down This Spring


New Town Manager to Temporarily Fill that Role Through July


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, January 30, 2019


   Maine Potato Blossom Festival Director, Meg Hegemann is requesting the town council release her from the independent contractor agreement with the town of Fort Fairfield effective April, 2019.  Mrs. Hegemann is developing a new business in Fort Fairfield and would need to phase herself out the Festival Director position by the end of April. 

   “I've worked closely with Mrs. Hegemann since my arrival to the town of Fort Fairfield as the town manager and she has consented to continue working for the Maine Potato Blossom Festival and its responsibilities until the end of April, 2019,” Fort Fairfield town manager, Andrea Powers told the town council at their January meeting. “I am currently taking on some of the duties and responsibilities of the Festival and I am confident with the staff and volunteers of the Festival that I will be able to continue through to the end of Festival.”

  Ms. Powers recommended to the town council that they approve Hegemann's request for release of her independent contractor agreement with the town of Fort Fairfield and that the town manager will continue the duties and responsibilities for the 2019 Maine Potato Blossom Festival.

   Town councilor, Melissa Libby recommended that the council should advertise the position of Festival Director.  “I just think it's a huge responsibility.  I know [the town manager] is extremely capable of doing it, I would rather see someone have a specific amount of time for that since it's such a big thing for the town.  I just know from prior people doing that job, when Tim (Goff) was here, it was an extreme amount of work.  I think it would be better to have one person have that as their responsibility, versus having that and other duties.”

  Mrs. Hegemann then clarified the challenges the town had in its past recruitment efforts for the Festival Director position.  “When I took the position for the 2018 Festival the position had been advertised, and it was my understanding that it had been advertised for quite some time.  To be quite honest, I may have gotten roped into it a bit because there was no one else stepping up to the plate,” she told the town council.  “It had been advertised at that point and it was a one year contract.”

   Prior to former town manager, Jim Risner's retirement, Hegemann had renegotiated the contract to extend through the end of the 2019 Festival.  “At that point I didn't know that this [my next venture] was going to be a possibility. But now it's looking more possible, so unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to manage both a new business and Festival, so I'll hang in as long as I can to help make that happen, but I know previously they had trouble recruiting.”

   Libby reiterated her point on the workload for Festival Director.   “I know it worked when we had the Chamber...there was not always a lot of volunteers, a lot falls on the Festival Director.  You'd like to say yes, I have volunteers and yes I have help, but that isn't always the case.  So, it is quite a large duty.” 

   “There's definitely a lot of work involved,” said Hegemann.  “I will say that the town staff was amazing and a lot of the events are organized by other organizations in the community.  We have been doing a number of activities simply because they've always been done and participation has been significantly declining.  My recommendations for this coming year would be to make some changes to that so there isn't quite as much busy work involved in activities that don't actually attract participants and focusing more on the activities that do.  I think there can be some work done in that regard.”

   Ms. Powers again spoke in support of her proposed filling in as Festival Director, in addition to her town manager duties.  “I don't have any problem helping out with the last three months.  It's a cost savings to the town. I think based on the foundation that Meg has done on last year's Festival and the continued work that she has done, and will continue to do through the end of April, that we'll be successful with this particular one.  But yes, we're probably looking to advertise shortly thereafter for the following [Festival].”

   Town councilor, Mitch Butler spoke in support of the proposal.  “I've talked the past with people that worked on the Festival committee.  One main problem a while back was if [a person] tries to take on too much themselves instead of delegating.  I think Ms. Powers has the great ability to delegate.  I've got confidence in her.”

  If council approved the proposal, Hegemann would be released from her contract as Festival Director and the town Manager, Ms. Powers, would assume that role in addition to her full time duties as town manger but the arrangement would be specifically for May, June and July of this year only.

   Town Councilor, Scott Smith expressed some concerns over the division of labor within the two jobs.  “I think the manager in the past has always had an active role in the Festival, and you're always going to have that active role.  I do support Melissa's idea that we try to find somebody.  We can still release Meg from her contract, but still make an effort to try to find somebody to be the director for this to facilitate this, along with the help of [the town manager], the town staff and the volunteers,” said Smith.  “I worked with Tim and I saw how much he was involved and it was overwhelming for that period.  It's a year-long job and he was full time doing that and so was Mr. Bosse.  That was their job and that's what they did.  They delegated a lot of time to that position to make sure the Festival was successful.  I think we ought to continue that way, not to overburden [Ms. Powers].”

   “It's not that we don't think [the town manager] is capable,” said Libby, “it's that the Festival is the biggest thing in our town and to have someone who is also working full time doing that as part of their job, versus having someone doing that as their job, I just think that if we can find someone, if not, then it's going to fall on [the town manager].  I think if we can, we should at least try.”

  Town Council chair, Mark Babin noted the difficulty in taking on a new Director outside of the current proposal with the town manager due to the compressed time frame just before the Festival begins.  “Because of where we're at and she is staying on until April, to get someone to take on from April on until we get to the Festival, there will be a lot of catch up to do.  I know we can advertise, but I'm in favor of this recommendation.”

   The council voted 3-2 in favor of the recommendation to release Mrs. Hegemann from her contract at the end of April, 2019 and have the town manager fill in as director until the end of this year's Festival.  Bob Kilcollins, Mitch Butler and Mark Babin voted to approve, while Scott Smith and Melissa Libby voted not to approve based on how the motion was written, with no requirement to actively seek a dedicated replacement for that position.

   Directly after that vote, the town council voted unanimously to support Hegemann's effort to apply for funding for her new business venture - Red Door Cafe - through the Micro-Enterprise Assistance Program, which is supported by Community Development Block Grant (CBDG) funding.  She is planning on opening her new cafe at the former Harvest Market location on the corner of Main Street and Route 1a later this Spring, or early summer.