Midcoast Humane officials plan to convert a former call center at 5 Industrial Parkway into a new shelter and office space. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

The new interim executive director of Midcoast Humane is confident in the stability of the nonprofit and completion of their new facility despite recent turnover among administrative staff.

Midcoast Humane provides animal welfare services to 40 municipalities in Maine.

On Wednesday, the Brunswick-based organization announced that Jess Townsend was appointed interim executive director following the departure of Mary Sundeen — the organization’s first president — who was appointed in December 2019.

Sundeen’s resignation came Friday, according to Townsend, and was for personal reasons.

Townsend declined to comment further on the circumstances and reasoning surrounding Sundeen’s departure. Sundeen was not mentioned in a press release from the organization announcing Townsend’s appointment Wednesday.

The newly appointed Midcoast Humane Interim Executive Director Jess Townsend. Courtesy of Midcoast Humane

The organization is scheduled to move into a renovated, 24,000-square-foot facility on Industrial Parkway in Brunswick during the second quarter of 2022. The Range Road facility in Brunswick will be sold and the facility in Edgecomb will continue to operate in that region.

Midcoast Humane employs 28 people. They currently have a board of directors with five people, which they aim to grow to between eight and 10. Current openings include a transport coordinator, a shelter manager, development coordinator, front desk associate, administrative assistant and animal care technicians.

“It hasn’t slowed us down at all, it hasn’t impacted the way that we care for animals, all the animals are still receiving all the love, care, attention they need,” said Kate Griffith, the director of marketing & communications at Midcoast Humane. “We are definitely making it work.”

Staffing turnover is not an issue exclusive to Midcoast Humane, and, according to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. workers are leaving their jobs in record numbers, with nearly 20 million resignations between April and August in 2021. That figure is 60% higher than resignations during the same period of 2020.

Midcoast Humane declined to release hiring and turnover statistics Thursday.

“I can’t speak for folks who have chosen to move on,” Townsend said. “What I can say is that my goal moving forward is to make sure Midcoast Humane is the type of organization where people feel the mission is worth their work time, that the pay is competitive and that the culture is one that they want to be a part of.”

This week, Townsend said, Midcoast Humane decided to raise its starting minimum wage from $12.15/hour to $15/hour. Existing staff were also given individualized wage increases, she said.

Townsend was originally hired as the director of operations in August. That same month, a new finance director was hired, and a new director of development started in June. A timeline for when a new president may be hired is yet to be determined.

“I used to work for somebody that said, ‘change comes bearing gifts’ and I think that is how we as a leadership team are looking to approach this,” Townsend said.

According to a 2019 financial statement, Midcoast Humane had roughly $2.8 million in total revenue that year, $2 million of which was sourced from contributions like gifts and grants and roughly $174,000 from town contracts.

Ben Bricker, the animal behavior and training supervisor at Midcoast Humane, has worked for the organization for just under six years and said the opportunity has allowed him to learn extensively about animal care and welfare.

“Finding just that right home, that’s what makes it worth it,” Bricker said. Going forward, Bricker said that based on Townsend’s experience he is confident in the stability of the organization, and excited to move into the new facility.

“It’s pretty common in sheltering to have waves of turnover and waves of new hires, and I’m so excited about the people that are coming in, and their vision,” Bricker said.

So far this year, Midcoast Humane has adopted out 1,081 animals. During the same period in 2020 and 2019, the organization had adopted out 1,063 and 1,987 animals, respectively. As of Friday, Midcoast Humane was caring for 215 animals, with capacity for more.

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