County Manager Announces Retirement

By JONATHAN BURKE

After giving a report on the fiscal health of county government, Dukes County manager Carol Borer announced Wednesday evening that she will retire from the position she has held since 1997.

The statement caught county commissioners off guard: "Well, that's a surprise," said John Alley of West Tisbury.

Ms. Borer will take advantage of an early-retirement incentive program that entitles her to benefits she otherwise would not receive for another five years. "I put a lot of thought into this and I believe it's something I need to take advantage of," she said.

A West Tisbury resident, Ms. Borer said the terms of the incentive program require her to resign by year's end. But she added that it would be legal for her to stay beyond year's end on a contract basis, giving the county time to find a replacement.

After that, Ms. Borer said, she hopes to travel.

"On the positive side, she's willing to stay on until we find a replacement," said chairman Leslie Leland.

"It doesn't leave the county in a bad position at all in this regard," commissioner Bob Sawyer told the Gazette Thursday. "Carol has volunteered and assured us that she will stay on as long as we need her."

Mr. Sawyer also complimented the outgoing county manager for her five-plus years of service and hard work.

Ms. Borer is leaving at a time when the county is strong financially. Before the unexpected announcement, accountant Christian Rogers of Sullivan and Powers reported that the county's balance sheet was in order.

There was no showing of weakness, he said, and the county's unreserved balance of about 10 per cent of revenue is good - enough to get the county through hard times but not so much as to make the county appear to be hoarding cash.

The main issue that the county must confront in the years ahead, said Mr. Rogers, is inventorying tangible assets like buildings, equipment and land.

"Our financial statements are going to change and look more like private enterprise," said county treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders.

Currently, Ms. Flanders said, only cash and receivables are listed. She said new balance sheets will be required for fiscal year 2004.

The county has come a great distance since Ms. Borer's appointment. In 1997, the Gazette reported that "the threat of county abolishment is still pending, and several, if not all, of a manager's responsibilities may be eliminated."

Ms. Borer assumed the post that September, after a state legislative committee had voted to preserve county government on-Island.

At the time, she said, "The county charter government is fairly new to the Island. There's quite a bit of networking and learning that needs to be transported countywide and, based on the legislative move of granting us another year, I think we have a lot of work to do to prove to the state that we can manage ourselves effectively and efficiently."

In a telephone conversation yesterday, Ms. Borer said the budget was unbalanced five years ago. "The county departments at that time were rather unorganized, and goals for the future had really not been worked on or set," she said.

Her job, she added, has been to strengthen the county, and she believes that she has done that - balancing the budget and increasing regional programs and services.

For example, she said, the county is collaborating with Island fire, police, and EMS departments to find a site on which to construct a public safety training facility. She also said she is working with the sheriff on plans to build a new jail and a community corrections building.

A new corrections building, Ms. Borer said, would house education space for substance abuse programs.

Other projects underway, she said, are creating community meeting space on the county's New York avenue property and obtaining new funding sources.

"I say that the county charter speaks to providing services to the towns and residents as needed, and I think that the county should continue pursing that goal," said Ms. Borer.

As it was five years ago, some critics question the role of and even the need for county government. Ms. Borer acknowledged that some mending with the Island selectmen is required.

She said there was confusion surrounding last year's vote for the Island's Steamship Authority governor. "I think that caused a rift among county commissioners, it caused a rift among boards of selectmen and has caused uncertainty in their minds about the viability of the county," she said.

"I think it really is just a matter of time before there is this collaboration and feeling of being able to work together and the county being put in a positive light again."

Prior to her appointment, Ms. Borer spent nine years with the Martha's Vineyard Commission - four as executive director and five as a regional planner and coastal zone manager.