Dresden city administrator Strong supporter of accessible government
New Dresden City Administrator Daniel Swain believes that in Maine, the citizens rule the state.
He vividly remembers a school trip to the state capital of Augusta, walking into the chamber of the House and seeing all the shiny gold light fixtures, loving “pomp and circumstance.”
As an adult, his interest in government is more nuanced. He appreciates that the United States has three levels of government: from the president of the country to the governor of the state to the mayor or city manager of a municipality.
“Of the three, we are the most accessible,” he said of local government.
Swain said he enjoyed talking to people, a trait he called both an advantage and a flaw. But he believes accessibility to residents is a fundamental tenet, not just of government at the municipal level, but also of his own philosophy. And in that context of engaging in conversation, that’s how he makes sure residents’ concerns are validated, that their voices are heard.
Swain was born and raised in Skowhegan and attended the University of Maine at Machias to study history and public administration. He had the opportunity to intern with the city manager of Machias where he “fell in love with the idea of government”.
“I realized I wanted to be part of it,” he said.
While still in college, Swain ran for Independent State Representative for Home District 32, which includes Machias. Running for office opened his eyes in ways he hadn’t expected.
He “knocked on 3,000 doors” and was surprised “by everything people don’t have”.
He said he realized what it means to live in poverty, and he noted that “people who have nothing are usually the ones who give the most”.
After coming in fourth out of seven candidates, Swain decided to pursue appointed government posts, although he wouldn’t rule out running for office again.
During and after college, Swain held jobs at companies that work with people with developmental disabilities, including Medical Care Development Inc., an Augusta-based nonprofit, Spurwink, a health services organization behavioral and education based in Portland, and Sunrise Opportunities in Machias.
Swain said he enjoys working with people with autism and Down syndrome and helping them “live their best life every day.”
Swain returned home from his stay in Machias and applied for municipal jobs in nearby towns. He held positions at Reed Plantation, Palermo and Monson.
According to Swain, he honed his civic skills during his four years as city manager, treasurer and tax collector in Monson. “I have to do a bit of everything,” he said.
But he was interested in new challenges. He left Monson in October 2021 and began applying to municipalities further south.
One of these municipalities was Dresden.
Swain was looking for a bigger town. He wanted to work south of Skowhegan and “pass through towns that had shops and people, as opposed to bogs and moose.”
He still lives in Skowhegan with his five-year-old boxer dog, Ellie. He said the best part of the hour-plus ride, and sometimes the worst, is the ability to solve problems in your head while driving.
Although Dresden has a larger population than Monson, Swain does not consider work beyond his skill set. Swain said Dresden currently has less development than Monson; “There is no city center.
He already knows the job inside out; he has served on the front line of several city offices and has the skills and knowledge to “step in and help out”. And he oversaw all the services offered by the city during his municipal career.
Swain was appointed city manager by the Dresden Board of Selectmen in November, replacing former city manager Michael Faass, whose contract was not renewed.
Swain said that for Dresden, as for all cities now, “The big question is how do we manage in a COVID world? How to open to the public while ensuring staff safety? How do you manage the influx of people seeking to flee large urban areas? »
Swain said that with homes selling as fast as they’re being built, there’s a new perspective to consider. New residents may have no idea what a city should have when it comes to services, he said. And sometimes they have expectations that aren’t or can’t be met. Many towns in Maine, for example, do not have their own police forces.
Swain said his most immediate goal in Dresden would be to get organized, tie up year-end finances and review a new personnel policy. He has already formulated ideas for additional policies he may wish to implement.
Swain said he assumed he would be heavily involved in the city’s broadband plans based on his experience helping Monson get online. He already knows the process and some of the potential pitfalls and challenges of acquiring internet service for a city.
Dresden’s potential withdrawal from RSU 2 is another significant issue that Swain plans to address in conjunction with the city’s RSU 2 Exploration and Review Committee.
Swain has a clear vision of the purpose of his position as city administrator of Dresden:
“My job is to help cities keep their property taxes as low as possible,” he said. “Keep in mind every day that it’s not my money.”