Few residents offer input on manager criteria

By Beth A. Birmingham | Feb 07, 2017
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham John Lawrence was one of a handful of Waldoboro residents who addressed the Search Committee Feb. 6 regarding qualities sought for their new town manager.

Waldoboro — Fewer than 10 Waldoboro residents were on hand Feb. 6 to give input as to the qualities needed in their new town manager.

First to speak was John Lawrence, who stated he hopes the "Select Board would be willing to pay the price for a professional person -- even though it's more than the budget calls for at the present time."

Lawrence went on to say it is important the candidate have the proper credentials and experience to meet the town's needs and they should be paid accordingly.

Longtime resident Jane Lichtman expressed her concern that the board has not been able to find somebody who loves the town.

"The town has a lot to offer, but we need to do a lot more than we have been doing in the last four or five years," she said. "What we need for a town manager to do for us now is to help us get people who have businesses that we can use," Lichtman added.

"We used to have all kinds of businesses, and we need them back again," she said.

"We've seen a lot of change, and it seems to me if we're going to hire a town manager we need somebody young that wants to live here," Melvin Williams said.

Williams said the town should hire someone right out of school who knows nothing. "We have plenty of people in this town who can train them," he said.

Jan Cellana was reluctant to speak, she said, because of various rumors she had heard. However, she said she feels the reason it is difficult to get a town manager to stay is because of less measurable reasons than the measurable qualifications on the job description.

"This is a very divided town in many ways," Cellana continued, "and I think to be successful in this job one has to have an unusual skill set and be able to navigate some really difficult and often under-the-surface kinds of challenges, and that's not an easy person to find."

New business owner and resident Isabella Mastroianni spoke of concerns she has regarding various rumors around what her nonprofit business is bringing to the town.

She is in the process of developing Loaves & Fishers, a residential, non-denominational, nonprofit culinary school on Spruce Lane.

"What I would hope is that we would have a town manager who would embrace the nonprofit business world and be open to positive change," she said.

Following public input, Interim Town Manager and Chairman of the Search Committee Bert Kendall offered two general statements regarding the age of the candidate and possible residency commitment.

Kendall explained that when the economic hard times began, towns started excusing the demand for town managers to reside in the town they were hired in.

"A good town manager is going to spend so much time here that you are going to think he or she is a resident," he said.

As to the age of applicants, Kendall said the average age of town managers is in the 40s and 50s.

"There are openings all over the state," he continued, adding there is not enough of a pool of candidates with history and experience to fill them all.

He reiterated what he has previously said ... "You want to find the right chemistry between the applicant and the board."

"I have confidence that this group [the Search Committee] will go through the applicants we have and make some good recommendations to the board," Kendall said.

The request for applicants drew 26 resumes, with 12 from Maine and 14 from out of state. Department heads and Select Board members will be asked to give input to the committee at a later date.

Following the public input period, the committee resumed its confidential deliberations in executive session.

The search stems from the resignation of former Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs in December. Briggs had served as town manager since March 2014,

In June 2016, after reaching a compromise on her contract, Briggs referred to her position as a "revolving chair" -- noting the town has seen continual change in the leadership role, which has prevented numerous projects from being completed.

Over the course of the past decade, the town of Waldoboro has had seven town managers — including now four interims.

The longest-standing town manager in the town's history was Lee Smith, who reigned for one month shy of 21 years — from January 1987 to December 2007. The next-longest at the position since was William Post, serving from March 2008 to January 2011; then John Spear, serving from August 2011 to December 2013.

"I'm really hoping Waldoboro will hit a home run," Kendall concluded.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.

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