BANGOR, Maine — City councilors on Monday unanimously approved an employment contract that installs current Orono Town Manager Catherine Conlow as Bangor’s next city manager.
Under the contract, Conlow will serve as the city’s top administrator until Nov. 30, 2015, although her employment is subject to termination by the council at any time upon 360 days’ notice. Conlow can resign on her own accord with 60 days’ notice.
She will be paid $116,022 in the first year and $118,930 in subsequent years, plus benefits that include a $400 monthly allowance in lieu of a vehicle provided by the city. City solicitor Norman Heitmann said Conlow’s contract is quite similar to the one the city held with longtime Manager Ed Barrett.
At a special council meeting Monday, Chairman Richard Stone used a sports analogy to describe Conlow’s appeal. A lot of baseball players have a natural swing, he said, but “it does no good to have a great swing if you can’t hit the ball.” Councilors believe Conlow has a good swing and can hit the ball, he said.
Councilor David Nealley said the city has been well served in the 10 months or so it has been without a permanent manager, and deflected criticism that the city has been leaderless.
“Bangor really didn’t miss a beat,” Nealley said, praising the efforts of interim Manager Bob Farrar and department heads.
Councilor Gerry Palmer defended the lengthy and somewhat expensive search process that eventually led the council to Conlow, who has been Orono’s town manager since 2004. As of mid-September, the city had paid $16,500 to Mercer Group and about $8,000 in travel expenses.
“The last I checked, Orono is in the United States of America,” he said, referring to the council’s nationwide search for the manager.
Councilor Hal Wheeler added that this isn’t the first time Bangor has poached a leader from Orono. In 1966, Bangor hired Merle Goff, who served as city manager for many years.
Conlow, who did not attend Monday’s brief council meeting, is scheduled to start her new job Nov. 29.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity, a fun challenge,” she said in an interview last week. “It was a hard decision [leaving Orono]. 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 and now lives in Orono with her husband and two children. Conlow said last week she plans to move to Bangor after the current school year. Her contract provides relocation expenses not to exceed $5,000.
Barrett had served as Bangor’s manager for 22 years when he stepped down last Christmas. He now is city administrator in Lewiston.
Farrar has been Bangor’s interim manager since Barrett left but did not apply for the job permanently. He is expected to return to his position of assistant city manager and human resources director.