Outgoing town administrator reflects on achievements, challenges

May 21, 2024

When Town Administrator Shawn MacInnes first considered taking the position in Dartmouth back in 2018, he, like other out of towners, thought Dartmouth was mostly just the commercial businesses along Route 6.

However, he discovered Dartmouth was much more than that, offering an array of agriculture and open space “from the coastline in the south to the rural character up north.” 

“For such a large town, Dartmouth has a strong sense of community,” MacInnes said. “I’ve been impressed with the dedication and commitment of the town employees. They are always willing to contribute in any way possible to the operations of the town, and often go above and beyond to do so.”

Now, as he gets ready to bid the community farewell, MacInnes reflects on his time leading this “unique” town through a global pandemic, long-range planning and advancements to technological services offered at Town Hall.

Monday, June 10 is the start of MacInnes’ vacation time, which he will take until his resignation date on Monday, July 15. 

MacInnes announced his departure in a Tuesday, April 16 email to town employees. He will leave to become CEO and president of the Columbia Association, a non-profit community service corporation that governs Columbia, Maryland, which is a “planned community” created by developer John Rouse with a population of approximately 105,000 people as of the 2020 census. Opening in 1967, it consists of 10 self-contained villages and is a census-designated place.

In regard to town service upgrades, MacInnes said, “From the public’s perspective, we provide just about all town services online, which results in a town government that provides services 24/7/365.”

In 2023, the Online Permit and Licensing Portal processed 7,400 permits and licenses as well as 4,300 inspections, resulting in $1.9 million in revenue, according to MacInnes. Additionally, the town sold over 3,000 beach stickers and nearly 500,000 documents have been scanned and indexed through the online document management system.

“Pick a department and we’ve upgraded their technological efficiency,” he said.

MacInnes also highlighted changes made to enhance communications, including the creation of Engage Dartmouth and the communications coordinator position.

MacInnes has also been leading the effort to focus on Dartmouth’s future, which he has done through “a number of feasibility studies and master planning initiatives to set a path forward for future generations.”

MacInnes said his focus has been on efficiency, which is why internally, there has been a “full overhaul” of the town’s position classification and compensation system.

A number of positions have been “elevated” and succession planning has been implemented to enhance the services provided to the community and ensure stability, he added. 

“All this was done while keeping the municipal budget with proposition 2 ½ and [maintaining] a AAA bond rating,” MacInnes said.

MacInnes said Dartmouth continues to face challenges, including the make up of its government. 

Dartmouth is a large area, but for the most part it has remained a “small town,” MacInnes said. He said it's a “robust community” with lots of commercial development, abutting two cities, which has brought “urban issues” that towns with similar governments don’t have.

“The decrease in civic engagement, as well as the structure of the government, prohibits the town from being more nimble, financially prudent and as operationally efficient as other comparable communities,” he added. “While this is not unique to Dartmouth, it will have to address this issue in the near future.

In regard to his time overall, MacInnes said, “I have enjoyed my time here. It's a really great community. I'll always be a big advocate for Dartmouth.”