Bangor seeks help on search for manager

Posted Nov. 16, 2009, at 9:29 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — City councilors agreed Monday to hire an outside recruiting firm to assist in the search for a new city manager and also agreed to set aside time to debate and settle on a new vision for Bangor.

Although the two issues will follow parallel paths, councilors hoped to solidify the city’s vision by the time a hired firm is ready to officially recruit candidates, possibly as early as next month.

Without exception, all nine councilors agreed that hiring a recruiting firm was the best option to find a replacement for Ed Barrett, who served as city manager for 22 years. Barrett was essentially forced late last month to announce his retirement, effective on or before April 30. He is currently a finalist for city administrator in Lewiston.

The city will pay anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 for consulting services, depending on the scope of the search. When a recruiting firm is retained, it likely will get a set of guidelines, one of which will be a clearly articulated vision for the future of Bangor.

In announcing their decision to part ways with Barrett, councilors said the city was looking to go in a different direction and looking to pursue a new vision.

Within the next few weeks, councilors will sit down with a facilitator to debate what that future vision of Bangor will be, something that has been a mystery since Barrett’s sudden retirement announcement.

Monday’s discussion was just a preview, but it appears that councilors may or may not agree on a vision and that some were OK if they didn’t.

“If we agree on everything, we’re not representing Bangor,” Councilor David Nealley said.

Councilor Rick Bronson said he doesn’t mind healthy debate, but he hoped that all councilors eventually would agree and buy into a new vision.

Still more discussion centered on whether the city should hire a facilitator to moderate the “vision” discussions. A couple of councilors felt the city didn’t need another voice steering or limiting the discussion.

“I think this group is more than capable,” said Councilor Susan Hawes, adding that if the city needs a facilitator, why not the newly elected chairman, Richard Stone?

Councilor Pat Blanchette also cautioned that the city should not need to have a facilitator for every difficult discussion.

The council voted 7-2, with Hawes and Blanchette opposed, to pay up to $2,000 for a facilitator.

Assistant City Manager Bob Farrar, who will temporarily take over administrative city duties once Barrett leaves, set a timeline for hiring a recruiting firm. If all goes well, the council will approve a contract by Jan. 25, 2010.

No timeline was set for shaping a new vision, but councilors agreed that it would need to be done at least a few days prior to Jan. 25.

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