Bangor hits snag in manager search

Posted Sept. 17, 2010, at 3 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Bangor’s candidate for city manager will not take the position he was offered more than two weeks ago after he and councilors failed to reach an agreement.

That revelation forces the City Council to revisit their short list of finalists or keep searching.

“Despite the best efforts by both parties, over the past few weeks, there were items outside of the city’s control that prevented us from reaching an agreement with our initial choice,” City Council Chairman Richard Stone said.

A city councilor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the out-of-state candidate, whose name was not released by the council, was very interested in the Bangor job and all nine councilors endorsed him. However, after learning some things, councilors grew more and more wary.

“He wasn’t properly prepared to move. He hadn’t started the process of selling his house. He didn’t do enough things that someone serious about this job should have done,” the source said.

Councilors met twice this week in executive session to sort out the next steps in the process, which could involve approaching the second finalist or looking at a new batch of resumes. The council will continue to work with the Mercer Group, an Atlanta-based recruiting firm hired earlier this year to conduct the nationwide search.

“The City Council remains fully committed to identifying and selecting the best possible candidate for the position as soon as reasonably possible,” Stone said.

Other councilors privately admitted that there has been frustration about the candidate’s inability to fully commit to Bangor. Some councilors also expressed frustration with the recruiting firm.

“The council realizes that this has gone on longer than we thought, but we need to do what’s best and not settle. The one good thing is that there have been no egos driving this discussion. Everyone is acting on behalf of the city,” said the anonymous councilor.

The council’s goal is to have a manager in place before the next City Council chairman is appointed in early November.

Stone compared the process of hiring a city manager to growing grass.

“You plant seeds; you water them; you nurture the area, but there’s no grass,” he said. “But there is still a lot of activity going on under the ground. Then one day, the grass comes in.”

Longtime city manager Ed Barrett stepped down almost one year ago after leading the city for 22 years. Barrett has since been named city administrator in Lewiston.

A nationwide search to find a replacement for Barrett began in February, when the city hired the Mercer Group. In July, councilors narrowed the list to three finalists, each of whom was brought to Bangor to interview in person for the position. One of those finalists removed their name from consideration.

Bangor assistant city manager Bob Farrar has been the city’s interim manager since Barrett left. Farrar did not apply for the job permanently and is expected to return to his position of assistant city manager and human resources director once the city manager post is filled.

By municipal charter, the City Council oversees the contracts of four positions: city manager, city solicitor, city clerk and city assessor. In January, councilors hired the Mercer Group, and so far the city has paid $16,500 for the firm’s services and up to $8,000 in other costs such as travel and advertising.

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