Bangor council narrows manager hopefuls

Posted July 22, 2010, at 9:03 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — City councilors have selected three finalists to interview in person for Bangor’s top administrative position, which has been vacant since longtime City Manager Ed Barrett stepped down late last year.

Council Chairman Richard Stone declined this week to release the names of the finalists and is not required to do so under Maine’s Freedom of Access laws. “They are all good candidates; I guess they wouldn’t be finalists if they weren’t,” he said.

All nine councilors, along with representatives from a recruitment firm the city hired, have been involved in the search for a new city manager, which has lasted more than six months. The council weeded through dozens of applicants and recently conducted interviews using Skype, an online video- and teleconferencing tool, with eight candidates before settling on the three finalists.

“The process has been great. We were able to find out some significant pieces of the puzzle using Skype,” Councilor Cary Weston said. “It allowed us to see dimensions of personality that you can’t see on paper, and it saved money.”

Stone said each finalist would be in Bangor in August for in-person interviews, after which councilors will sit down and make a decision. By municipal charter, the City Council oversees the contracts of four positions: city manager, city solicitor, city clerk and city assessor.

Last October, Barrett ended a 22-year run as Bangor’s city manager by announcing his retirement — 18 months before his contract was up — as part of a negotiated agreement with city councilors.

Councilors cited a new direction when explaining their decision to part ways with Barrett. The council’s decision was criticized by some members of the public and prompted one councilor to request that the council reconsider the decision. That vote failed 5-4, but led a resident to take out recall petitions for the five councilors who upheld the vote: David Nealley, Rick Bronson, Gerry Palmer, Susan Hawes and Pat Blanchette. The recall was unsuccessful.

Soon after announcing his retirement, Barrett was approached about a vacant city administrator position in Lewiston. He quickly became one of four finalists and was offered that job. Barrett started work in Lewiston in early January.

Bob Farrar, who was Barrett’s assistant city manager for several years, was appointed interim city manager soon after his boss left. Farrar did not apply for the full-time job.

“Bob has done an excellent job stepping up to the plate, as have all of our department heads, but there is no doubt we need a city manager,” Stone said.

Also in January, Bangor councilors hired the Mercer Group, an Atlanta-based recruitment firm, to conduct the search for Barrett’s replacement. The city paid $16,500 for the firm’s services and up to $8,000 in other costs such as travel and advertising.

The Mercer Group’s task was to develop a recruitment plan in conjunction with the council that addresses specific duties, responsibilities, operational issues, management qualities and other factors relevant to the position of city manager.

“They have really taken the lead in setting everything up and making our job easier,” Stone said. “It has taken a lot of time, but it hasn’t been tedious. I think everyone has been comfortable with our approach.”

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