Friday, March 7, 2014
SKOWHEGAN -- Somerset County Commissioners said Thursday they believe newly appointed county administrator Dawn DiBlasi will bring unity and a new rapport to county government.
Dawn DiBlasi has been appointed the new county administrator for Somerset County.
Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans
DiBlasi, 51, of Fairfield, a former Waterville attorney and Workers' Compensation Board advocate for injured workers in Augusta, was appointed county administrator Thursday by a 5-0 vote of commissioners.
She begins work June 10 with a two-year contract and a six-month probationary period. Her stating salary is $65,000.
Commission Chairwoman Lynda Quinn, of Skowhegan, said DiBlasi will bring "peace and quiet and unity and a voice of reason" to the commission board. Commissioners don't always see eye-to-eye on important decisions, she said, and were not satisfied with the performance of former administrator Larry Post.
Quinn said dialogue among commissioners can be "non-productive and contentious" on matters that change from one meeting to the next.
"I'm hoping she will be a voice of reason," Quinn said. "She seems to have a lot of energy, personality -- very, very capable. We still are ultimately in charge, but hopfully she will pull us all together and find a page on which we all can work. I'm looking forward to that, I really am."
Commissioners in December said Post's lack of communication on routine county matters and specific business issues, including dealings with the state Board of Corrections on compensation for boarding out-of-county inmates, was part of his style that conflicted with commissioners' expectations.
"I think when you have five county commissioners from five completely different walks of life, not all of the commissioners will ever agree," Commissioner Phil Roy of Fairfield said. "I think what Dawn will do with her negotiating skills and her ability to communicate will be able to bring all of the information to all of the county commissioners the way they understand it."
DiBlasi takes over for Post, of St. Albans, who resigned in December. County finance manager Earla Haggerty has held down administrative duties on an interim basis since then. There were 37 candidates for the administrator's job.
"I think I'm qualified for the job because I have very good people skills. I have good mediation skills -- alternative dispute resolution skills -- and the legal background," DiBlasi said. "I'm able to look at the statutes and understand complex policy."
DiBlasi comes on board during the final weeks of debate over the $11.7 million county budget and a battle with the state Board of Corrections over payment for the boarding of inmates from other counties, which the outcome of the separate jail budget hinges upon.
"There's no time like the present to jump in," she said. "I really feel I'm going to be helpful in bringing the county together where they are divided. That's my strong point."
Roy said the county's legal team will handle the civil action filed this week against the state Board of Corrections, not DiBlasi, despite her legal background. He said she will be a strong link in the communication process with county commissioners as that court action takes shape.
Quinn agreed, saying that the fight will be fought by the lawyers, including Michael Hodgins and Lee Bragg; county commissioners; and Sheriff Barry DeLong.
DiBlasi attended Waterville High School while working full time at McDonald's for 9 years beginning at age 15 to support her disabled parents. She worked a second job at the Hathaway Shirt Co. in Waterville and later at the old Econo-Quick store, also in Waterville.
She later worked double shifts at the Scott Paper Co. mill in Winslow.
DiBlasi studied computers at Kennebec Valley Technical College and in 1988 enrolled in a program offered by the National Academy for Paralegal Studies at Thomas College, where she also studied business, all the while working full time.
She landed a job as a legal secretary in Waterville and kept a second job at an accounting firm. After that she accepted a job at Colby College as the administrator for the government and history departments.
After studies at Colby and at the University of Southern Maine, DiBlasi enrolled at the University of Maine School of Law in Portland, where she graduated in 2003.
DiBlasi opened her own law office in January 2006 in Oakland. She later opened a law office on Main Street in Waterville.
"I'm delighted that they chose me -- I know that I have a lot to learn," she said. "It's going to be a huge challenge for me, but I'm ready for it."
Doug Harlow -- 612-2367