New Cape Elizabeth council chairman hopes to turn inexperience into advantage

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Despite having the least seniority on the Town Council, Jamie Garvin has been chosen as the next chairman.

Garvin, who was elected to the council in November 2015, was selected Nov. 14 in a council caucus. His leadership position will become official at the Dec. 12 Town Council meeting.

“I hope as chairman that I’ll be able to have a bit stronger voice of leadership,” Garvin, 41, said.

Although Penny Jordan was elected to the council on Nov. 8 and Councilor Sara Lennon was elected last year, both women have served prior terms on the council. Garvin, who will be replacing Councilor Molly MacAuslan as chair, said he’s surprised he was chosen for the role.

“My expectation was that it would be someone else since I’ve only been on the council for one year,” he said.

Garvin, who works in marketing, said he’s excited to take on the leadership role and thinks his inexperience will work in the council’s favor.

“The flip side to the inexperience coin is that you bring a fresh perspective,” he said.

Additionally, Garvin said if he needs support or advice he’ll know where to find it.

“I have a very good working relationships with the councilors and the (town) manager,” he said. “There are people with a lot of experience that I can tap into.”

Town Manager Mike McGovern will soon be gone, though, leaving Garvin to work with someone new. McGovern, who has been town manager for 31 years, will be retiring Dec. 31.

“I can only assume I’ll have a good working relationship with the new manager, but it’s an unknown factor at this point,” Garvin said, noting that it may be the biggest challenge in his new role.

Working with the other councilors to hire a new town manager is one of Garvin’s top priorities. In addition to finding a strong leader for the town, Garvin said he wants to make sure the new hire is supported in the role.

“We really want to make sure that person is set up to succeed,” he said.

Another priority involves the town’s new Comprehensive Plan, which is in the first stage of development. The process is expected to take two years.

“At this point I wouldn’t say I have goals for the output,” Garvin said. “Right now I’m focusing on assembling a strong Comprehensive Plan Committee.”

Having a strong committee ensures the Comprehensive Plan will be a good one, Garvin said.

He also said he wants to focus on the future of Fort Williams Park. The town has been discussing what should be done with the park amid concerns of parking, overcrowding, and revenue options.

“We’ve been sort of nibbling around the edges of issues around the fort, but this year we’ll need to take a bigger picture, strategic-view look at the fort moving forward,” Garvin said.

Part of determining the future of the park will be communicating with residents, Garvin said. In general, having strong lines of communication is important to him.

“We want to make sure people feel connected to the important decisions being made,” he said. “Figuring out how to better communicate with residents is important to me, and it relates to what I do professionally, so it’s a strength for me.”

One idea Garvin has is utilizing email and social media accounts as ways of disseminating information.

Garvin said he also hopes to work with the councilors so they all better understand each other’s viewpoints.

“As chairman I hope to more actively forge that consensus between the councilors if there’s a situation where there’s disagreement or different views,” he said.

The ability to remain unbiased will make Garvin a strong chairman, he said.

“There was an element of me being in the middle and being someone with a more neutral view,” he said. “I feel like I have the support of all the councilors, not just one group of councilors.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Councilor Jamie Garvin will become chairman of the Cape Elizabeth Town Council.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.