BANGOR, Maine — A bon voyage bash for former City Manager Ed Barrett drew an estimated 250 well-wishers to the Bangor Civic Center on Friday night.
Besides the expected current and past elected officials from Bangor, Brewer and beyond, there were former colleagues and friends from other walks of life, including the business, education, medical and legal communities, as well as environmentalists and representatives from the arts community.
Noting that Bangor’s nine city councilors had said their good-byes to Barrett earlier, City Councilor Susan Hawes said she saw the mix of other people who stopped by Friday night’s gathering as a testament to the respect Barrett gained during his 22-year tenure at the city’s helm. The line of people wanting to speak a few words with Barrett was both long and slow-moving.
“He deserves that. It’s a wonderful way for the community to thank him for all that he’s done,” Hawes said. “He’s done some wonderful things while he was here,” she added. “You have to give credit where it’s due. His dedication to the city has always been apparent, and it will be very, very many years before people forget Ed.”
Though the invitation said “no gifts,” a group of former City Council chairs couldn’t resist. They chipped in and bought Barrett a painting by local artist Paul Thibodeau. The Bangor cityscape depicts a view down Central Street — almost identical to the view from the third floor of City Hall, where Barrett’s former office is.
The fireworks in the painting’s background prompted former City Council Chairman Dan Tremble to quip that fireworks in a painting are far better than fireworks inside City Hall. Other “exes” who spoke were former council Chairman Frank Farrington, who served as master of ceremonies, and former council Chairmen Timo-thy Woodcock and Nichi Farnham, who read letters of thanks and congratulations from U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, respectively.
Barrett was touched by the event, becoming somewhat emotional in his brief remarks.
“It has been a real pleasure working for every one of you,” he said, calling his former hometown “a great community.”
Barrett announced his retirement in late October after 22 years as Bangor’s city manager. His departure was part of an agreement with the City Council, which expressed a desire to move Bangor in a new direction, one that did not involve Barrett. A subsequent effort by Councilor Hal Wheeler to undo the move failed 5-4.
Barrett was offered a job as Lewiston’s city administrator the week he announced his retirement, and he began his new job Jan. 11. Meanwhile, Lewiston’s former administrator, Jim Bennett, has accepted the city manager post in Presque Isle. Bangor is poised to start a nationwide search for Barrett’s successor.
Some of those who have dealt with Barrett professionally admitted they were perplexed by the Bangor councilors’ decision.
Peter Daigle, chief operating officer of Lafayette Hotels of Bangor, was among them.
Noting that Bangor, Lewiston and Presque Isle elected officials all cited their desire for a new vision in their recent leadership changes, Daigle said, “I think we ought to get all these councils some glasses.”