South Portland’s longtime code officer to retire

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SOUTH PORTLAND — After 35 years, the city’s longtime code enforcement officer this week announced she will retire in February.

In her Dec. 27 letter of resignation, Pat Doucette, who is also the deputy director of planning and development, said she is leaving “to take care of my newborn granddaughter several days a week and to do a lot of other things that I have been wanting to do.”

Doucette, who joined the city in the early 1980s, has worked under six city managers, four Planning and Development Department directors, and in five office locations, she wrote.

Her tenure, however, has not been without controversy.

Doucette has recently been criticized by residents and some city councilors who believe she mishandled procedures or misinterpreted the city’s code.

When NGL Supply Terminal Co. initially submitted its application last January to build a 60,000-gallon above-ground liquefied petroleum gas storage tank and facility in Rigby Yard, Doucette approved the project.

Critics said she misinterpreted the city’s code of ordinances and sanctioned an operation prohibited by the code. Her conclusion led to a battle between Oklahoma-based NGL and the city that lasted more than a year.

Then, just days before the council was due to vet a possible moratorium on the storage of liquefied petroleum gas in the city, Doucette publicly recanted her initial assessment, concluding the opposite: that the operation was not allowed under city code.

Doucette could not be reached this week to discuss her decision to retire. But in her resignation letter she thanked Planning and Development Director Tex Haeuser for his “leadership and support.”

“I am extremely thankful for all the opportunities provided to me to grow and develop through the years,” Doucette said. “Every day has brought forward a new challenge, and I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every bit of it.”

“I have worked alongside excellent colleagues and will truly miss not seeing them every day. I will especially miss dealing with our business owners, residents, their engineers and contractors,” she said, adding, “I came to work for the city without fanfare, and I wish to leave the same way.”

Doucette’s last day will  be Feb. 3, 2017. Interim City Manager Don Gerrish said Wednesday that the city will begin looking for Doucette’s replacement soon, but that he “doubts” the city will find a suitable replacement before her last day.

Steve Puleo, who has been community planner for a dozen years and has worked closely with Doucette, said her departure will leave a hole in the department and be “a loss for the city.”

“She has great knowledge of many different things that have happened over the years that are invaluable when it comes to helping people get the most or the best use from their properties,” Puleo said Thursday.

Puleo said Doucette is also “incredibly available for the citizens” and is “always putting her work, her obligation for the citizenry first.”

“There’s certainly not a week, not even a day, when I might forward down a question from somebody that’s called the department for Pat’s help,” he said. “And she’s always there, available to help people.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.