ORONO, Maine — Word that their town manager of more than six years has accepted the city manager position in Bangor was met Friday by town councilors with a mix of regret over the loss and recognition that her decision is a good career move.
Catherine Conlow, who has been Orono’s manager since January 2004, announced her plan to leave her position in late November, contingent upon a final vote by Bangor’s elected officials on Monday, Orono town councilors confirmed.
“I just found out that she is accepting the job,” longtime Councilor Lianne Harris said, adding that she and other council members were aware Conlow was interviewing for the Bangor post but did not learn that she was offered it until Conlow made it official Friday afternoon.
“I think that’s more than appropriate for her,” Harris said. “She’ll leave a big hole, but she’s young and it’s only right that she moves on to bigger challenges. It’s a good move for her.
“She’s been an excellent town manager. She not only has represented us well, she also hired some strong [town administrators] and developed a cohesive work force that we are very proud of.
“She’s a neighbor to all of us and this is a small town,” Harris said, adding, “We will be very sad to see her go. We were very lucky to have her, and I think that she leaves the town in a place where we should attract some high-quality candidates.”
Harris was not the only Orono official to say, “It’s our loss and Bangor’s gain.”
Councilor Thomas Spitz echoed that sentiment.
“I guess it’s sad in a way. Things have gone so well with her, but I guess on the other side I guess she has to move on,” he said. “I feel it’s a loss for us. It doesn’t mean we can’t recover, but it’s a loss. She has been very good for us.
“As a person, she’s been wonderful to work with. I guess the best thing that I’ve seen about her is her ability to manage and cut costs, especially in these times,” he said.
“I’m not happy but I feel that she’s a good person and deserves the best she can get,” he said.
Judith Sullivan, Orono’s newest councilor, agreed. She noted Friday that Conlow “has got some great skills. I certainly understand. I wish her well.”
“She’s a young woman with a long career ahead of her. It’s going to be a challenge, but one that I think she’s up to,” Sullivan said.
With Conlow’s announcement only a few hours old, it was not yet clear late Friday afternoon what the town’s next step will be and how the town will go about finding its next manager.
Harris speculated that the Orono vacancy likely will be advertised regionally and nationally, as was the case when the town was in the process of hiring Conlow.