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Council picks Orono manager Conlow to lead Bangor

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
Catherine Conlow, current Orono Town Manager, to be named new Bangor City Manager Friday, Oct. 15, 2010. (Photo courtesy of Catherine Conlow)
By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — After 10 months and a nationwide search, the Bangor City Council has chosen current Orono Town Manager Catherine Conlow as the next chief executive of the Queen City.

Councilors are expected to make the decision official at a special meeting Monday afternoon at City Hall.

“The council interviewed several highly qualified candidates over the past few weeks,” City Council Chairman Richard Stone said. “Ms. Conlow is the best candidate for the position.”

The details of the contract had not been worked out by Friday, but Conlow is scheduled to start in Bangor on Nov. 29.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity, a fun challenge,” Conlow said in an interview Friday. “It was a hard decision. I wasn’t looking, but the opportunity presented itself.”

Conlow has been Orono’s town manager since January 2004. She previously served as public services director in Blaine, Minn., outside Minneapolis, and before that spent 12 years working in county government in Oregon. She is originally from New Jersey.

Conlow has an undergraduate degree in public administration from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Her husband was born and raised in Maine. They have two children, a 13-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son.

Conlow said she has enjoyed her time in Orono and praised the staff and Town Council there.

“I feel as comfortable as I can leaving,” she said.

The decision ends weeks of speculation about who would succeed longtime Bangor City Manager Ed Barrett. Last October, in a surprise move, city councilors negotiated a deal in which Barrett retired before his contract expired.

Barrett is now city administrator in Lewiston, a position he assumed in early January.

“My congratulations go out to Cathy. I think she’ll be a good choice,” Barrett said Friday by phone. “She’s coming into a city with energetic people and a strong commitment to their community.”

Bangor councilors launched a nationwide search in February to find a replacement for Barrett and hired the Mercer Group, an Atlanta-based recruiting firm, to oversee those efforts.

This summer, councilors settled on three finalists, each of whom was brought to Bangor to interview in person for the position. One of those finalists later withdrew from consideration.

Last month, councilors made an offer to a finalist in the search, but both sides were unable to come to an agreement, forcing the city to start the search anew.

“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,” Stone said at the time.

One of Conlow’s positions in Oregon was director of economic and special development in Jackson County, which included managing all aspects of economic development. She also worked with county commissioners to develop the county’s first strategic plan for economic development with a focus on business retention.

When councilors effectively ousted Barrett last year, they indicated they were looking for an administrator with strong economic development credentials.

“The City Council was impressed with Ms. Conlow’s experience, qualifications and education,” Stone said. “We believe that she will be a very good fit with both the organization and the community. She is very familiar with many of the issues and challenges in Bangor and the region.”

Assistant City Manager Bob Farrar has been Bangor’s interim manager since Barrett left, but he did not apply for the job permanently. Farrar is expected to return to his position of assistant city manager and human resources director.

In addition to Farrar, Conlow will have a number of experienced department heads to guide her along when she officially arrives in Bangor.

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