China throws retirement party for town manager

Dan L’Heureux tries out his commemorative rocking chair, presented to him by Select Board Chairman MacFarland. (Photo by Eric Austin)

by Eric W. Austin

On June 30, a crowd of grateful citizens, from the town of China and surrounding areas, gathered in the portable building behind the town office to wish luck to Dan L’Heureux as he enters retirement after more than 22 years of service as China’s town manager.

Dennis Heath, China’s new town manager beginning July 1, got the festivities started, saying, “One of the things I learned in my career in the military is that it’s important to acknowledge the service that somebody gives to their state, to their community, to their country. And 22-1/2 years given of Dan’s life in service to the community of China is nothing to shake a stick at. I wanted to make sure we honored that today.”

Bob MacFarland, Chairman of the Select Board, then spoke. “I’ve known Dan for 10 years,” he said. “He’s a great person to work with; very conscientious. He’s fiscally intelligent, which has benefited all of us, and he’s been nothing but good for the town.”

Maine State Representative Tim Theriault, of China, then introduced Matt Pouliot, a state representative from Augusta who will be running for Roger Katz’s state senate seat this fall. Representative Pouliot began by saying, “A lot of the good work that’s done in the state of Maine is done by the town managers and the town select boards and the members of town committees. The best decisions are made at the local level and they require really good local leadership.”

Pouliot then presented Dan with a Certificate of Legislative Sentiment for his more than two decades of service to the town of China. Reading from the certificate, Mr. Pouliot said, “Be it known to all that we, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, join in recognizing Daniel J. L’Heureux, of Waterville, on his retirement as China town manager after 22 years of service. We extend to Mr. L’Heureux our appreciation for his public service and offer him our congratulations on his retirement. And be it ordered that this official expression of sentiment be set forthwith on behalf of the 128th legislature and the people of the State of Maine. Signed by the President of the Senate, Mike Thibodeau, and the Speaker of the House, Sara Gideon. Sponsored by Representative Tim Theriault, Senator [Scott] Cyrway, Representative Tom Longstaff, and Representative Colleen Madigan.”

Theriault then presented Dan with a ceremonial flag. Reading, he said, “This is to certify that the accompanying flag was flown over the state capitol on June 28, in honor of Dan L’Heureux, of Waterville, on his retirement as town manager of China.” He then added, “I want you to remember us when you fly this at your home. Remember that the town of China really appreciates you.”

Retiring China Town Manager Dan L’Heureux, left, and new town manager Dennis Heath during retirement party. (Photo by Eric Austin)

Select board member, Neil Farrington, also said a few words. “I’ve had about 14 years on the board,” he said. “Dan has kept me honest, and when I get on my hifalutin dream ideas, he brings me back to reality … He’s the type of person you can go to with any idea you have, and he’ll listen to you and understand you, and sometimes reject you — but that’s a part of being in a manager’s position. He’s always been there, whether it’s professional or personal. I consider him a close friend, and we’re going to miss him here at the town office.”

Irene Belanger, a China select board member, then stepped forward to present Dan with a Spirit of America award. She said, “I am on the state board for the Spirit of America. Spirit of America honors volunteers. Although he’s had a paid position, Dan has also done a lot that’s over and above what he actually needed to do. On behalf of the Town of China, we have given you the Spirit of America award. It’s in recognition of your outstanding service spirit, and the timeless hours given for the benefit of the community. We congratulate you on the great things you have accomplished.”

Joann Austin, a South China resident who retired from the Select Board last year after more than 25 years of service, then addressed the group. “In all the years I’ve worked with him,” she said, “I’ve been astonished at, and thankful, for his ability to take stuff that comes into the town office — and it’s all different kinds of energy that comes in, some happy, some not — and he doesn’t take it personally, and he tries very hard to find a way to solve it.”

MacFarland then presented Dan with a locally made, wooden rocking chair as a memento of his time as China town manager. On the back of the chair is a plaque which reads: “Dan L’Heureux. Town manager, January 15, 1996 to June 30, 2018. In grateful appreciation for your dedicated service to the Town of China and with wishes for your lasting enjoyment of your retirement.”

Finally, Dan L’Heureux came to the front. He said, “I’m always mindful that ceremonies like this say as much about the energy within a community, and those people who are hosting it, as it does about the person they’re recognizing. So, I thank you very much. When I looked for employment in the past and decided whether I would stay for a long time, it depended on four criteria. One was that I had my family’s support, and that I did have. A second one was that I liked what I do. The vocation of a town manager is ever-expanding, ever-changing, and ever-challenging. And the third was that I hoped I would like the people that I worked with and they would like me. And the fourth was that I liked the people that I worked for, and that’s all of you. And you have been terrific to me. I’m very thankful and I think this community has tremendous fiber, and I will eternally miss … a lot of you.”

There was much laughter at this last, and someone from the crowd shouted, “Are you gonna run for mayor now?”

The speeches were followed by hors d’oeuvres prepared by the town office staff, cake, and a great deal of socializing.

Representative Matt Pouliot, of Augusta, presents Dan L’Heureux with a Certificate of Legislative Sentiment. Representative Tim Theriault, of China, stands on the right.

Dan L’Heureux’s retirement cake.


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