Manchester is classroom for new manager Educator tackles projects of town in second career


For Philip L. Arbaugh, Manchester's new town manager and a former elementary school principal, running a town isn't much different from running a school.

After a month in his new job, the longtime educator observed: "I spent 27 years as a manager, basically what I'm doing now, but instead of talking about kids reading, I'm talking about drilling wells. But I'm still talking to people and trying to solve problems."

He's found more similarities than differences, he said. Sometimes the town office -- like the principal's office -- "is one of those environments where people who come here are not always happy. But the staff helps to resolve problems rather than create problems."

The 50-year-old college professor and retired elementary school principal started work Aug. 24 -- his 30th wedding anniversary -- although he didn't officially take the oath for several weeks.

Arbaugh had been retired less than two years when he spotted a newspaper advertisement for the part-time town manager's job, which had been placed upon the retirement of former Manager David M. Warner.

Although Arbaugh had no municipal-management experience, Mayor Elmer C. Lippy Jr. said he was impressed by the resume he received and felt that among the 32 applicants, Arbaugh would be best-suited.

Lippy named Arbaugh with council approval, under the town's strong-mayor system.

"I didn't know Manchester or the mayor," Arbaugh said. "I was more familiar with the Westminster area than this area, and the big Carroll County picture. But I'm quickly being educated about the issues, the problems."

"The big project that's ongoing is the water project," he said, referring to the continuation of a $1.5 million program to refurbish wells and find new sources of water. The town also hopes to build a second floor for a laboratory at its wastewater-treatment plant that would allow remote monitoring of the wells and the water tank.

"As far as the citizens are concerned, that's No. 1: Where can we find more water?" he said. A promising well site has been located outside the town and is being considered by the county.

Second in importance is trying to cajole a bypass from the state, he said, "but that's way down the road. It's not going to happen any time soon." The town is concerned that a bypass that has been approved for Hampstead, its neighbor to the south, will empty traffic into Manchester.

Although no bypass has been approved for Manchester, Arbaugh said, "at least we're talking about it. It would be nice if the two could be done at the same time."

Other continuing town business includes updating codes and personnel policies for its 17 employees.

"I'm learning on the fly. It's a lot of balls in the air," he said.

He keeps his hand in teaching as an assistant professor for curriculum and administrative courses at Western Maryland College and Carroll Community College, he said. Before taking his new post, he also had been teaching at Villa Julie College and the Johns Hopkins University.

"That's one of the reasons I was really looking for a change," Arbaugh said. "Literally, I spent more time in the car than I spent teaching."

He lives in Westminster, where he was born. His two daughters are teachers, and his wife, Annette, is an instructional assistant at Robert Moton Elementary School.

A graduate of Westminster High School, Arbaugh earned his bachelor's degree at Towson University, a master's degree at Western Maryland College and a certificate of advanced study at Hopkins.

He began his career as a sixth-grade math teacher at Charles Carroll Elementary School, where he had plenty of experience with "middle-school mouth."

After five years there, he became an assistant principal in the Howard County school system and was named a principal about two years later. He served at the Clarksville, Dasher Green and Bushy Park elementary schools before retiring last year.

"That's where 28 years were spent," Arbaugh said fondly. "But being a principal is a 60-hour-a-week job. I really don't have any desire to do that again. This job has its demands too, but it's still about management, making decisions."

In his application, Arbaugh noted his experience in overseeing employees, setting policy, developing budgets and programs, and coordinating data and public relations.

"Your position of half time, 25 hours per week, seems to be an ideal means for me to become involved in a second career," he wrote. "While money is important, I am much more interested in securing a position in which I can be challenged and productive."

Arbaugh said the job has satisfied those needs.

Pub Date: 10/03/98

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