LEWISTON, Maine — City councilors in Lewiston voted Tuesday night to appoint Ed Barrett as the next city administrator, picking Bangor’s longtime city manager over the other finalist, Lewiston’s own deputy city administrator.
Lewiston officials approached Barrett in late October shortly after he announced his retirement in Bangor. Once he expressed interest in the Lewiston post, Barrett quickly became a finalist.
He attended Tuesday’s council meeting in Lewiston and also plans to participate in a press conference at 10:15 a.m. today to discuss the new job. Barrett expects to start there on Jan. 11, but he didn’t yet know when his last day in Bangor would be.
“There are a lot of people in Bangor that I really love, so that is the hard part, but I’m looking forward to Lewiston,” he said. “My first job there is going to be to listen and to learn.”
Barrett’s 22 years of experience was too good to pass up, Lewiston City Councilor Robert Reed said Tuesday night.
“He was just too good a candidate,” Reed said. “We had two good candidates, but Barrett really stood out.”
He said he was hopeful that Barrett and the other top candidate, Deputy City Administrator Phil Nadeau, would be able to work together.
“I think that with their skills, they’ll make a really dynamic team,” Reed said.
Bangor City Council Chairman Richard Stone learned of the decision late Tuesday night.
“We wish Ed well, he’s a capable individual. The city of Lewiston will do well by him,” Stone said. “Ed’s qualifications will no doubt meet the needs they are looking for.”
Stone said Bangor would move quickly to appoint an acting city manager. The Bangor council has agreed to use an outside recruiting firm to assist in the search for a permanent manager, but that process is expected to take several months.
Tuesday’s decision closes the chapter on a contentious month in which the public has criticized the Bangor City Council over its handling of Barrett. Councilors first decided in executive session in October to force Barrett’s retirement, citing a desire to move in a different direction. The council then affirmed that decision in a 5-4 public vote early last week that featured significant public comment. That vote has since been followed by a petition drive to recall the five councilors who stood by the decision.
According to his agreement with the Bangor City Council, Barrett’s retirement was to become effective on or before April 30 and he must give two weeks’ notice before leaving.
“I think it’s in the best interest of everyone for me to move on. Certainly, it hasn’t been easy for anyone the last few weeks,” Barrett said Tuesday night before quickly pivoting. “I dearly love working in local government and getting a chance to see the impact you make. I’m not ready to give it up.”
Lewiston councilors met behind closed doors for an hour Tuesday before their regular meeting, then came back into public session to announce their choice.
Barrett takes over a Lewiston post that was vacated this summer by Jim Bennett. Lewiston councilors voted in July to oust Bennett and agreed to pay the remaining salary due on his contract, about $110,000.
According to Barrett’s employment agreement with Lewiston, the first six months of his employment will be based on a $110,000 yearly salary. After that point, his yearly salary will increase to $116,000.
Lewiston Human Resources Director Denis Jean said Barrett’s contract is less generous with other benefits. That was a reaction to Bennett’s contract, which provided a staff car, Internet and phone expenses and a long-term buyout clause.
The new contract lasts for 2½ years, but councilors can terminate the contract with six months’ notice. Barrett does not receive a car, but gets an allowance of $400 a month for vehicular travel and will be reimbursed for general expenses only.
He will receive $3,000 in relocation expenses and $1,000 a month housing assistance for six months. If he resigns within those six months, he must repay both relocation and housing expenses. He has nine months from signing to establish permanent residency in Lewiston.
Lewiston Sun Journal writer Scott Taylor contributed to this report.