April 22, 2022

In the public eye: Raymond’s Town Manager leads by example

Don Willard has served as Raymond's town
manager for more than two decades and is
responsible for the day-to-day management
of all municipal departmental operations
and staff and upholding local ordinances as
well as federal and state laws affecting

Editor’s note: This is another in an ongoing series of Windham and Raymond town employee profiles.

By Ed Pierce

They say a good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit. That pretty much sums up how much Don Willard approaches his duties as Raymond’s Town Manager.

Having served as Raymond Town Manager for more than 21 years, Willard has a great deal to be proud of in his work and he embraces his leadership role with enthusiasm and humility.

“The job of town manager is not confined to only in-office work hours. Most town managers also live in the town that they work for, so in a sense you are always on duty and available for questions, public input and emergency action,” Willard said. “With the advent of the digitally connected world, it is not uncommon to receive inquires via cell phone, email and texts 24-7, and 365 days a year. This has been a challenge for me as I tend to like to take care of business right away.”

Originally from Scarborough, Willard graduated from high school there and spent his first year of college at the University of Maine at Portland-Gorham before transferring to the University of Maine at Orono where he graduated from the Public Management program.

He launched his career in municipal government in 1983 as the first Town Manager of the Town of Dixfield. In 1986, Willard became Town Manager of Rockport, a position he held until 2000. In December 2000, he joined the Town of Raymond as Town Manager and continues in that role today.

“With the birth of our son, my wife and I wanted to live closer to other family members and in a beautiful rural area with open space and waterfront access,” he said. “In my book, that was Raymond.”

“In general, I am responsible for the day-to-day management of all municipal departmental operations and staff. The job also involves upholding local ordinances as well as applicable federal and state laws,” he said. “I report to the elected Raymond Board of Selectmen. The selectmen establish policy directives and specific goals that I am charged with implementing. As the town's legislative body, which is composed of registered voters, the select board convenes both the annual town meeting and special town meetings as necessary. The legislative body establishes the overarching framework for municipal operations and related actions.”  

According to Willard, the best part of his job is serving in a position where he can marshal the resources of the town to make a small difference for the better in his community every day.

“I also like the fact that no two workdays are ever the same and that the job often involves helping people solve difficult problems,” he said.

The town manager’s job is not without significant challenges though.

“For the past two years a primary focus has been on protecting the health and welfare of our citizens, elected and appointed officials as well as our municipal workforce, while providing for continuity of government operations during the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) worldwide pandemic,” Willard said. “An ongoing challenge has been finding creative ways to do more, while being cognizant of the need to keep local taxes as low as possible.”  

His most memorable moment of working for the Town of Raymond came on Sept. 11, 2001, when he was interrupted during a project meeting by the town’s public safety dispatcher, informing him that an airliner had just hit the World Trade Center in New York City. 

Among his many career accomplishments in Raymond, he cites the successful completion of the Route 302 Improvement Project, which transformed the appearance of the town's main business area while improving both pedestrian and motor vehicle safety.

“Later Raymond became the first new Portland Water District member town in 50 years by successfully extending public water from Windham to Raymond,” Willard said. “This project was funded in part by a large Community Development Block Grant.”

For Willard, every day he spends as Town Manager is an opportunity to acquire new skills.

Among the things he says he’s learned are the methods involved and ability to deliver high quality municipal services, while maintaining both a comparatively low and consistent municipal property tax rate. 

“More importantly, I’ve learned that success is not an individual endeavor,” he said. “If Raymond has been successful over my time here, it is because we have always had engaged and committed local government officials and a team of dedicated hardworking staff members.” <

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