North Yarmouth selectmen, new administrator discuss goals

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Several months after Scott Tilton’s contract was not renewed by the Board of Selectmen, new Administrative Assistant Marnie Diffin took to her new office Monday.

Her first day in the town office was spent “trying to find the bottom of the desk,” she said, along with meeting and talking with town staff. She even has almost everyone’s name down, she said.

Diffin comes to North Yarmouth from Islesboro, where she’d been town manager since 1994. Before moving to Islesboro, she was an administrative assistant in Durham. She was selected last month from 76 applicants for the North Yarmouth post.

In accordance with a Board of Selectmen goal that the new administrator live in or near North Yarmouth, Diffin moved to Sligo Road, where she and her three dogs and three cats are renting a home.

“It was time for a change,” Diffin said Monday of her decision to come to North Yarmouth, while still working in town government. She was attracted to North Yarmouth most by its still-rural feel and sense of community. Residents “still consider themselves part of a community as a whole,” she said, unlike cities where people’s alliances are to neighborhoods.

And, she said, the town has nice parks where she can walk her dogs, and the move brought her closer to her grown children. Her daughter lives in Windham, and her son, Rory Diffin, is a police officer in Cape Elizabeth.

Monday night, the Board of Selectmen held a public workshop to begin setting short- and long-term goals for Diffin as she settles into her new role. No members of the public attended and the meeting was not televised.

Board Chairman Paul Napolitano said he hoped the board could set obtainable goals “so we can do a very nice evaluation for our new administrative assistant” when her first review comes up in eight months.

Each selectman outlined, which included designing and implementing an accounting system, tracking Fire Department and Public Works expenses, reviewing staff positions and giving performance evaluations, and becoming familiar with the town’s Comprehensive Plan. Diffin took notes throughout, and said she’ll bring a compiled list of goals to the selectmen’s regular meeting Aug. 18 for their review.

Selectman Mark Verrill seemed surprised a reporter was present, saying more than once that he couldn’t say everything he’d planned to. During a discussion of ways Diffin might facilitate increasing town revenues, he said had one idea which would remain “secret,” to be addressed another time, because he didn’t want to “start a firestorm” over it. 

Though Diffin was not asked about her own goals during the workshop, she said afterward that her primary goal for her first few months is to familiarize herself with the town’s budget and budget process “so I can be an effective voice on the budget in November and December.” Every town does their budget differently, she said, so the task of learning the new process and line items “in itself would have kept me busy.”

As Diffin learns her new staff and town processes, she said she’s most looking forward to meeting more people in town and helping with issues they have. So far, she said, she recognizes that trash and the silver bullets are a big, unresolved issue, and she’s curious to hear from more of her new neighbors about what issues they have and the direction they’d like to see taken by the town.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or