Cumberland rec director to resign, begin 'Chapter 2'

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CUMBERLAND — After nearly 20 years as the town’s community education and recreation director, Bill Landis is planning to step down and begin the next chapter of his life.

The man who Town Manager Bill Shane calls the “true Ambassador of Cumberland” gave notice to his boss last month, well in advance of his planned departure at the end of June, in order to give the town plenty of time to find a replacement and to plan for the change in the upcoming fiscal 2011 budget.

Landis publicly announced his decision during Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

“Bill, you are somebody we’re not going to be able to replace here in Cumberland, and it would be unfair to put that burden on anybody,” Shane told Landis during the meeting. “Your faith, your passion and your commitment to this community are unparalleled. … You bring goodwill wherever you go.”

“There is no way that the work he has done can be replaced by one individual,” added Councilor Jeff Porter. “Here’s a man you can see at 6:30 in the morning setting up goals, and you can see him at 9 o’ clock at night in the gym.”

Landis, 56, was hired in 1991 and recently became known as public services director, taking on public works duties along with his other responsibilities. As of this week, though, Operations Director Chris Bolduc became the new public services director, allowing Landis again to focus solely on community education and recreation.

Looking back Monday on his time with Cumberland, where he’s lived since 1992, Landis praised the fact that “no one day is ever the same as any other day. There’s always change and new things that happen every day.”

He said he has also appreciated being able to do many different things within his job.

“I don’t think there was ever a job in my department that I had not done myself, so that whether I was the aquatics director, whether I was a lifeguard, whether I was a swimming instructor, whether I was a coach,” he said. “… My daughter got involved in Nordic skiing, so I became the master snow maker, I became a groomer, and all these were sort of volunteer efforts.”

When storage and shelter facilities were built at the Twin Brook Recreation Area, Landis wore the hat of general manager of construction.

“It’s been amazing, just the expanse of responsibilities that I was able to gain from the town of Cumberland,” he said.

Landis noted that he’s had a very understanding family when it came to his taking on more tasks – which was good, since whether he was working six or seven days a week, he wasn’t counting the hours. Landis has attended a variety of programs, even on weekends, to ensure that they went well.

“I have a gregarious personality where I like to work in a community, and this community was very receptive to, and appreciative of, my efforts,” Landis said. “… So that allowed me to continue to do maybe even more.”

Winnie Durrah, who has served as Landis’ administrative assistant nearly the entire time he has worked with the town, Monday described how she will miss the man who has become far more than her supervisor.

“We’ve become friends over the years,” she said. “He’s my boss and I respect that, but I’m going to miss being able to go in and just sit down and sound out to him about certain things, and the way things are run. He’s always been so easy to talk to.”

Durrah added that Landis “is just so different from me. I’m a little bit more hot-heated, and he’s very nonchalant, ‘let’s take this one step at a time.'”

She also praised the amount of work he has taken on. “He does 24/7 and always keeps a smile on about it. It’s just like losing part of the family,” she said. “We’ve all been together for so long that we mesh; everybody meshes with each other in this office.”

Landis said the relationships he has established in the community will be what he misses most. “I was probably the first coach that kids would receive in tee-ball, youth soccer and youth lacrosse” at the preschool and Kindergarten levels, he said. “I definitely will miss the energy and the enthusiasm of young athletes, and I will also miss the parents of the other program participants, who I got to know over the years.”

Prior to coming to Cumberland, Landis spent seven years as senior program director at the Portland YMCA. “Between the two jobs it’s been 26 years sort of in the public sector,” he said. “That’s going to be a real change.”

It will be a change that kicks off what Landis refers to as his life’s second chapter.

Tragedy struck his family in December 2008 when his wife, Janet, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She died the following February. Their daughter, Christine, transferred to the University of Southern Maine and has spent the past year with her father.

She would like to transfer out of the state, though, and has applications in to schools in California, Oregon and North Carolina. Landis said he plans to follow her, allowing the two of them to continue to be near each other.

“During that hard time in my life last year, the outreach of the community was unbelievable,” Landis said. “I had created a lot of friendships, and boy, did they ever just hold me up and help me through that period of time. It was really a definite blessing. The times and the efforts that I had put into the community were repaid threefold during when you go through a struggle like that. And this community, and North Yarmouth as well, were just very, very supportive.”

Landis said he will spend the next six months saying goodbye to the many people he’s gotten to know through his job. He also said he knows the final drive out of town will be tough.

“But, on the other hand, I do have an excitement about another chapter in my life,” he said. “And some people don’t get to do a Chapter 2.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or [email protected].

Sidebar Elements

Bill Landis is planning to step down in June after nearly 20 years as Cumberland’s community education and recreation director.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.