People in The News

Raymond Town Manager Joe Ilsley Focuses on Spending, Listening to Residents
By Leslie O’Donnell    7-10-18

Is it Legal. Ethical. Moral. Efficient. Effective. Does it build the public trust?

Those words are on the whiteboard in Raymond Town Manager Joe Ilsley’s office. They pepper his conversation. And they are the guideposts he follows in his work and his life.

Ilsley, who hopes residents will call him by his first name, is relaxed but serious about his foray into municipal government. A native of the Granite State, Ilsley was raised in Woodsville, NH and West Newbury, Vt., and entered the U.S. Air Force two weeks after graduating from Woodsville High School. He made a career of the Air Force, and after 24 years, is happy to return to civilian life near his extended family, all of whom live in New Hampshire and Vermont.


Joe at desk

Raymond Town Manager Joe Ilsley


He rose through the ranks of the Air Force to Chief Master Sergeant, and served in the Security Forces field, where he worked in federal and military law enforcement, industrial security, anti-terrorism and force protection. He served tours to Iraq and Afghanistan; his most recent posting was at Travis Air Force Base in California.

In Director of Staff posts, he has overseen more then 400 government employees at a time, and has managed multi-million dollar budgets, union bargaining agreements, resource and workforce planning, and intra-agency memorandums of agreement and government compliance actions. Among his policy accomplishments is the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) multi-national emergency management plan.

Ilsley and his wife, Laura, have a daughter, 6, and a son, 4, and are making their home in Amherst. This is their fifth move in the past five years, and he looks forward to settling in and spending time with his family, which he calls his greatest source of happiness. In his spare time, he enjoys woodworking, hiking and the Patriots, and hopes to get back to hunting and fishing.

In his new job, in addition to making a concerted effort to get to know the residents of Raymond, Ilsley said his focus in the coming months will be on building a spending plan and prioritizing spending for the 2019 budget. “All the department heads are doing that now, and it’s a new thing for them,” he said. “They are going to have to prioritize every line item in their budget.”

Top priority will go to “must pays,” which Ilsley explained are items such as fuel and those that “if you don’t fund them, you cannot do the job.” Priority 2 items would enhance the Town’s ability to do its job, or yield cost efficiency, such as migrating from paper copies to electronic. Priority 3 are items that would make the job easier or add such things as beautification.

“The goal is not to look at spending by department, but to look at it by the Town as a whole,” he said. “The long-term goal is to be as efficient and effective as we can, and return money to the taxpayer.”

Ilesley said that in order to have a budget that is fair to “the services we provide as well as fair to the taxpayers, I need to look at every line item when the budget is built and when it is spent.” He noted that he will be examining ways to yield efficiency and reduce the cost to taxpayers.

In that light, he said he will be reviewing every hour of overtime. “If a department has projected overtime, the department head would let me know ahead of time,” he said. “That’s all about being efficient and effective.”

Ilsley also wants residents to feel they can talk with him about their concerns, no matter how small. He has instituted a “Joe with Joe” on Fridays, where he will stop in at a local restaurant and meet with any residents who choose to come by.

“I work for everybody and have to listen to everybody,” he emphasized. “I don’t want there to be haves and have nots. It’s my job to listen and to fact check and get back to people.”

Building inclusiveness is something Ilsley considers vital in Raymond. “I believe everybody needs to matter in Town,” he said. “Everyone should get the same level of service, responsiveness and respect. And our employees should be treated with respect as well.”

Acknowledging that some residents are vocal about their dissatisfaction with Town government, he said that in most cases, people get upset because they are frustrated. “If you can give people the ability to talk about their concerns, maybe a lot of that frustration would go away, and (their concerns) may actually find a benefit for the Town,” he said.

“We need to work for the greater good. I like different opinions,” he said. “I don’t have to be right, I just have to be effective.

“It has to be good for the families of Raymond to be good for the Town,” Ilsley added. “So we want to be very careful with people’s investments, and their largest investment is likely their house. That means not every business is appropriate for Raymond, if it would bring in low wage jobs and draw down property values.”

That brings him to his mantra of “legal, ethical, moral, efficient, effective, and building the public trust.” Everything the Town does has to meet those guidelines, and has to be transparent, Ilsley emphasized.

While his entire career has been in the military, Ilsley is confident it has prepared him well for municipal service. “I see running a town as structured exactly as it was in the Air Force,” he said. And he envisions his job as running the Town from the perspective of what is good for the families who live in Raymond.

“If I don’t do my job right, we have a tax increase,” he said. “The reward is to be prudent with the Town budget.”

With just four days of work under his belt, Ilsley had already met with Raymond School Superintendent Tina McCoy. “The school district is a separate entity from the Town, and the schools are the heart of the town,” he said. “It’s not my part to tell the school district what to do, but from the Town perspective, we can talk about how we can work together so we’re not over-stressing the schools, and how we can foster a positive attitude toward the schools so we can be more collaborative.  If the schools thrive, the Town will thrive.”

Ilsley holds an associate’s degree in criminal justice from the Community College of the Air Force, and bachelor’s and master of public administration degrees from Bellevue University in Nebraska. He also is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy, a program reserved for the nation’s top 1 percent of law enforcement executives.


Joe, Laura and Kids

Joe Ilsley, wife Laura and children


Ilsley is convinced Raymond offers many advantages. “It’s beautiful,” he said. “Its location is perfect. People moving to New Hampshire want that. And not having put in infrastructure in the past means we can deliberately plan, as the development of this region of New Hampshire is still ahead of us.”

In that vein, he wants to see a Raymond 2040 vision. “It can’t be Joe’s vision, it needs to be the community’s vision,” he said. “I would like to see a more deliberative planning process looking at the long term of what is best for Raymond.

“Planning is not just about growing,” he emphasized. “It should be about preserving what the people want their Town to be.”

Ilsley concluded that “I feel that after 24 years of service around the nation and abroad, I am extremely grateful to come home and serve the state that I love.”

Ilsley can be reached at 895-7006.