David Flanagan, former Central Maine Power Co. CEO and UMS board of trustees chairman, will be the interim president at USM starting next Monday announced officials yesterday.
“David Flanagan is one of Maine’s most trusted, experienced and accomplished business leaders and public servants,” said Chancellor James Page at a press conference Wednesday, outlining Flanagan’s work as a counsel both in state and national government and how he led a response to the 1998 ice storm in Maine.
Flanagan will be coming out of retirement to serve as USM’s president, like his predecessor Theodora Kalikow, who recently left USM to lead a ‘community engagement initiative’ at the system-level.
“This university has extraordinary assets – talented faculty, dedicated staff, serious students and the most desirable locations in the state,” said Flanagan. “Yet, something is seriously wrong here. USM is losing out. In enrollment, in revenue, in public support.”
According to Page, Flanagan will be tasked with strengthening USM’s ties with the community, moving the university toward implementing the Metropolitan University Model set forth by the administration and closing the expected $12.5 million gap between projected revenues and expenses in the next fiscal year.
“I have seen this phenomenon before — a competent, well-meaning organization built up over decades in a cocoon of monopoly conditions suddenly has to confront competition and changing conditions,” said Flanagan. “In USM’s case, the demographics have changed, competition has increased and state support has seriously declined. When you look at the statistics on enrollment, revenue, market share, and deficit spending, you know we have kicked the can down the road for far too long.”
“I was CEO of the largest public service company in Maine during some trying times – trying politically, commercially and financially,” he continued. “Reform, restructuring and repurposing is a hard, wrenching, sometimes personally painful job. But it is possible for even a large unwieldy organization like USM to come out of it stronger and better and more service-oriented than ever.”
Flanagan will receive an annual salary of $203,000 and will be in the position until a permanent president is found by a search committee, a process Page said could take a year to complete.
Before the press conference, Flanagan held a private meet and greet with selected student leaders including student government representatives, board of trustees representatives and chairs of various student organizations.
“I’m not some sort of tyrant who thinks I have a monopoly on good ideas,” said Flanagan, explaining that he has helped turned around companies by following some principles: Have respect for people, listen to the people who have frontline knowledge, and to look at companies that are doing well and trying to adapt their strategies if possible.
He stressed to students that, while balancing the budget would include cuts that he knew the university needs to grow as well and that he would be focusing on increasing revenue streams.
“I’m very excited about this and I’m excited to be working with you,” he told students. “I can’t wait to begin and I hope that together we can really turn this place around and make something terrific out of it.”
“The future I see for the University of Southern Maine is a bright one. It is with great appreciation and optimism that the Board of Trustees and I ask David Flanagan to light that way,” said Page at the press conference.