Monmouth has hired its next town manager, and she has close ties to city government in Portland and South Portland.

Linda Cohen, a former South Portland city councilor and a city clerk in South Portland and Portland, will begin her role as Monmouth’s town manager on Dec. 9. This will be her first time managing a municipality.

Cohen said she applied for the Monmouth job because she has wanted to be a manager since she served as city clerk in South Portland. She believes a city or town manager sets the tone for the rest of the government and the community it serves. Cohen also is a firm believer in being held accountable to taxpayers.

Linda Cohen Submitted photo

“When you’re a government official you have to realize that you are working on the taxpayers’ dollar,” Cohen said.

Cohen has a three-year contract with Monmouth. Her annual salary will be $75,000, which could increase to $77,500 after a six-month probationary period, said C. Douglas Ludewig, chairman of the Monmouth Board of Selectmen. She also will receive an annual $3,000 stipend for travel expenses.

Cohen does not plan to move to Monmouth and said that if residency had been required, she would not have applied for the job.

“I’m not moving. I am going to commute. The drive will take me about an hour,” said Cohen, who pointed out that her daily commute is similar to a what a legislator or state employee faces when they drive to Augusta from Portland or South Portland.

“I love South Portland,” said Cohen, who moved to the city 48 years ago. “I plan to retire in South Portland. This is my home.”

Cohen brings about 30 years of municipal experience, including serving as a councilor for South Portland for two three-year terms. She served as South Portland’s mayor, who is elected by city councilors to lead the council, in 2015 and 2018.

Cohen also served 21 years as a city clerk, in Portland and South Portland. Last summer, Cohen announced she would not be seeking re-election to the South Portland City Council. At the time, she said she wanted to step back, reclaim her life and give others the opportunity to serve the city.

“We are hoping that she has had the experience to do well with all the financial aspects of being a town manager,” Ludewig said, “and the people skills, getting along with the staff and working well with them and running the departments.”

Having a town manager with good financial and people skills was important to the board, he said.

Cohen was the president of the Maine Municipal Association, she said, serving on its executive board and legislative policy committee. She also has been a consultant for the towns of Auburn and Yarmouth.

Early in her career, she worked in code enforcement and in the assessors office in South Portland before working as the city clerk for 12 years. She followed that by being the Portland clerk for nearly a decade.

“I am hoping the people in Monmouth are open to someone new coming in,” Cohen said. “I hope that they can feel like they can drop by and introduce themselves.”

Her immediate goals will be to get to know the town and do a lot of listening and learning.

“When you have a manager who has been there for a long time, as Curtis (Lunt) was, sometimes people are looking for changes; some are happy with what they have got,” she said. “I need to find out that situation in Monmouth.”

After 44 years managing towns, Lunt will retire after working the last 12 years for Monmouth.

“We hope she can continue to help the town realize our economic goals and keep the budget under control to keep the tax rate low,” said Tim McDonald, Board of Selectmen vice chairman.

Cohen, 64, is a Portland native.

“Most of my friends think I should be retiring,” she said. “I feel like I still have a lot to give. I am not going to be done any time soon.”

Cohen will not be the town’s first female manager. Jane Fiori led the town in the 1990s, Ludewig said.

Portland Press Herald Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

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