January 18, 2022

County board coping without chairwoman > Eastport council to name interim manager

MACHIAS — Government officials in Washington County and Eastport have scrambled to plug the hole left by Mary K. Follis, who remains hospitalized after being seriously injured in a car accident on June 27 at Eastport.

The Board of Washington County Commissioners will continue to function as a two-person board on a day-to-day basis, pending the recovery of Follis, who serves as chairwoman.

Follis holds several key administrative and advisory positions in municipal government, including that of city manager for Eastport.

Eastport council President Charles Lewis said the council will meet Monday night to officially name City Treasurer Joyce Pottle “interim city manager on a month-to-month basis” pending Follis’ return to work. “We need someone to be in charge of the department heads, and someone they can be responsible to,” Lewis said.

A spokesman at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor said Sunday that Follis was in serious condition, but Follis’ mother said her daughter was making progress.

Gerry Kendall said her daughter was taken out of the intensive care unit Saturday and was placed in her own room in the rehabilitation ward.

“The move to rehabilitation was a step up,” Kendall said. “She still hasn’t said anything yet. She is holding it all inside, but one day it will all come bubbling out. She has opened her eyes and can follow movement. Also, she can move her arms and legs. We know it is a waiting game and she will have a long time recovering, but she is a fighter. The neurologist said he was pleased with her progress.”

With continued progress, later this week nurses may help Follis out of bed to stand for a while, Kendall said.

Two weeks ago, Follis, 44, was driving her car north on Route 190 at about 7 a.m. when an errant southbound utility trailer slammed into the front of her car, and its long steel tongue speared her windshield. Follis suffered serious head injuries. At EMMC she underwent emergency brain surgery that involved the removal of skull fragments from her brain.

County Commissioners Edward Cline of Calais and Norman Nelson of Roque Bluffs said Sunday that they would continue functioning as a two-person board while hoping for the chairwoman’s eventual return to her normal work shedule.

Cline, the senior member of the commission, said he and Nelson were aware that their decisions on issues could result in an impasse without the benefit of a third person to break a tie. “We’ve learned to work together pretty well, and now we’ll just have to do the best we can,” Cline said.

Nelson said Maine law fails to take into account the temporary loss of a county commissioner to long-term disability. Also, it fails to permit the temporary appointment of a voting commissioner, pending the regularly elected commissioner’s return to functioning duties.

Also in consideration that Follis’ return to her duties may not be soon, District Attorney Michael Povich has advised the commissioners that the law does not provide for the appointment of a voting commissioner because of incapacitation.

Nelson said the law states: “When no choice is effective or a vacancy happens in the office of county commissioner by death, resignation, removal from the county or for any other reason, the governor shall appoint a person to fill the vacancy. That person shall hold office until the first day of January following the next biennial election at which a person shall be elected to fill the office.

Follis, elected to a four-year term in the fall of 1992 in the second commissioner district, is in the middle of her third year. She will be eligible for re-election in November 1996.

Follis’ district includes about 12,000 people in the towns of Beddington, Centerville, Cutler, Deblois, Dennysville, East Machias, Eastport, Lubec, Machiasport, Marshfield, Northfield, Pembroke, Perry, Wesley, Whiting, Whitneyville, Pleasant Point and the unorganized territories of east central and northern Washington County.

Rep. Theone Look of Jonesboro, chairwoman of the county’s legislative delegation and a former county commissioner, recalled that there have been two or more occasions in the last 30 years that the commissioners have had to function for a prolonged time as a two-person board.

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