August 20, 2013

Waterville humane society looks ahead under new president, director

By Amy Calder acalder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WATERVILLE — The Humane Society Waterville Area is in transition — the executive director was fired last month, a new board president and executive director are in place and there are four open positions at the Webb Road animal shelter.

click image to enlarge

Staff and visitors congregate at an outside dog kennel at the Humane Society Waterville Area today.

Staff photo by David Leaming

With all the changes, society officials say there has been no interruption of services for pet adoptions and other programs.

"We have enough staff dedicated to the animals that are there and enough volunteers to make sure that stuff is taken care of," said Matthew Townsend, a veterinarian and new president of the society's board of directors.

Townsend, a board member for about 10 years, confirmed that Executive Director Andrea Pasco was fired at the end of June. Board member Marcia Salmon said the move was the result of a unanimous board vote.

Pasco was hired in December 2011, after Paula Mitchell, who had been executive director 18 years, retired. Townsend said the board felt Pasco was not a match for the goals the society set.

"I think that the humane society has changed a lot from being a mom-and pop-operation to one of the largest in the state," Townsend said today. "So with that, obviously, you have a lot of growing pains. I think Andrea's a person with a kind heart."

Pasco confirmed today that she was fired, only elaborating to say she and the board had "a differing opinion on how the shelter should move forward in the future."

Former board member Kathleen Ross started July 8 as interim executive director. Ross is animal control officer for Belgrade, Mercer and Rome, and is a former animal control officer for Waterville, Norridgewock, Oakland, Mount Vernon, Sidney and Augusta.

"She was familiar with a lot of animal care standards and what the shelter needs to do to follow those standards," Townsend said.

Salmon praised Ross' abilities and said the shelter is thriving under her leadership.

"Kathleen is fabulous," Salmon said. "She knows so much about animals. We've never had that expertise before."

The shelter, on Webb Road, operates on an annual budget of about $450,000. Funding comes from 28 communities in Somerset, Kennebec, Waldo and Knox counties that contract with the shelter, as well as from donations and fundraising.

Townsend estimated there are 150 cats and 70 to 80 dogs at the shelter. As interim executive director, Ross oversees the shelter, which employs 10 other people. Four positions are vacant, including a kennel manager, front desk manager, operations manager and receptionist.

The humane society's website had not been updated with recent changes as of today and still listed Pasco as executive director, Michael Williams as board president, Laura Berthiamune as vice president and Sherry Nadeau as treasurer. Williams, Berthiamune and Nadeau all have resigned, according to Townsend.

Board members Michael Brown and Russell Danner, a veterinarian, are now vice president and treasurer, respectively, he said.

Ross said she is enjoying her job so far.

"My passion has always been animal welfare, so I'm doing what I can to improve the care and placement of animals," she said.

Ross said if she decides to pursue the permanent executive director's job, her positions as animal control officer for the three communities would change.

Asked if she would be hired permanently, Townsend said "when it comes time to hire somebody, everybody has equal opportunity."

Townsend said adoptions at the shelter have increased from last year, as has the number of animals neutered and spayed.

Despite the stress of transition, the humane society will continue its goal of caring for animals, he said. Salmon said the changes were necessary:

"Change is difficult, but when you change to make things better for whatever reason, it has to be done."

Amy Calder — 861-9247
acalder@centralmaine.com

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