WELLFLEET — Maria Broadbent, the town manager of Berwyn Heights, Md., will be Wellfleet’s next town administrator.
The 54-year-old was picked over current Dartmouth Town Manager Shawn MacInnes in what became a 5-0 vote by the select board Monday. The board was originally split three to two in Broadbent’s favor, but the two members who at first opposed her changed their votes after deliberation.
Broadbent will begin her tenure on Aug. 1, just one month later than the town’s original timetable, based on current administrator Dan Hoort’s decision to retire on June 30.
Broadbent began her career in public service over 30 years ago as a naturalist with the Cape Cod National Seashore. She later moved from founding and running a regional recycling center in Maine to Newport, R.I., where she led a city program to develop neighborhood and environmental programs, and finally to becoming a municipal chief in Maryland.
Broadbent hopes to finish out where she began, on the Outer Cape. She was a finalist for the Provincetown town manager’s job in November, and when asked last week if she was also applying to be town manager in Truro, she declined comment.
She became town manager in Berwyn Heights in 2018. Broadbent said she would bring her environmental and administrative experience to Wellfleet in addressing issues of economic development.
“We’ve got to maintain services that the community expects,” she told the Independent. “We have got to make steady, predictable progress to get our economy back on track.”
To start, Broadbent intends to streamline the business permit process, to get small businesses up and running as quickly as possible. That way, she said, businesses don’t have to eat into operating capital while they are waiting to get approved.
“The most important thing there is partnering with them and helping them get open with as little of an obstacle as possible,” she said.
Broadbent said she helped over 700 small businesses get off the ground as director of the Dept. of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs in Annapolis, Md., where she served from 2010 to 2016.
As director, she was responsible for all construction and land-use permitting.
She also served as director of the Annapolis Office of Environmental Policy from 2016 to 2018, working on permitting of large-scale projects. She ended up being fired from that position during the permitting of a continuing care facility, Crystal Spring, that provoked vocal opposition, she said. She had worked on the environmental review of the development for six years, spanning the tenure of two mayors, she told the Independent in November. When a third mayor, Gavin Buckley, came in, he faced pressure to let her go.
“Folks wanted me to stop the development; there was pressure on the Annapolis mayor to replace me,” she said. “That was his prerogative, and I respect that.”
Under Broadbent’s leadership, Berwyn Heights was the first town in its county to declare a state of emergency because of the Covid-19 outbreak on March 13.
She has not furloughed any employees during the crisis, she said.
“What we all hope we can do is keep the current staff,” she said. “Good employees are hard to get.”
In Wellfleet, she plans to shift her focus to affordable housing once the pandemic is under control.
Broadbent said she has met with Provincetown Town Manager Robin Craver and Eastham Town Administrator Jacqueline Beebe to discuss a regional approach to addressing the housing problem.
“We have to do what we can do working together to solve some of those issues,” she said. “We aren’t going to solve them in a day. Trust me; these are big issues.”
Broadbent has a passion for gardening, where she can be found on most of her days off.
“I call it my Saturday office,” she said.
She is also a self-proclaimed “minor history buff” and looks forward to immersing herself in the rich history of Wellfleet’s ecology and architecture.
“It was always my plan that, ever since I left in 1987, I would be back in Massachusetts in 10 years,” she said. “I’m a little behind on that plan, but it is worth waiting for.”
The town administrator’s salary was advertised at $170,000 a year. Hoort’s current salary is $140,000.
The select board interviewed the two finalists on June 4, and when the members convened Monday to make a choice, there was a divided result. Chair Janet Reinhart and members Helen Miranda Wilson and Michael DeVasto voted for Broadbent, while vice chair Kathleen Bacon and member Justina Carlson voted for MacInnes.
With a background in information technology and 20 years of experience with municipal government on the Cape, MacInnes impressed Bacon and Carlson as someone who could bring Wellfleet much needed help with technology development and financial management.
The 49-year-old MacInnes has been town manager in Dartmouth since 2018 and had previously worked in Yarmouth as information technology director from 2000 to 2015, and as municipal operations director from 2015 to 2018.
He secured over $200,000 in grants last year for the town of Dartmouth in categories ranging from seaport development to wetlands preservation.
In Yarmouth, he “built a state-of-the-art information technology division from scratch, providing vision and executive direction, infrastructure capitalization, personnel hiring, budgeting, policy development and contract negotiation,” according to his resume.
MacInnes also highlighted a focus on wastewater management in his interview with the select board, outlining his plan to take the burden of septic system management and cost away from property owners to help economic development.
After much debate and discussion by the board, Bacon and Carlson eventually changed their votes in favor of Broadbent.
The decision, in large part, came down to what each select board member thought was the
highest priority for the town, the environment or technology.
The environment just barely prevailed.
“Maria has great background not just in the environment but in cleaning up coastal waterways, collective bargaining, and affordable housing,” Reinhart said.
Wilson agreed, saying, “We are looking down the barrels of climate change, and I think that she would probably be the best fit.”