Orono moving fast on town manager search

Posted Dec. 19, 2010, at 2:46 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — Town councilors have whittled a list of 40 applicants for the vacant city manager position down to six semifinalists and are working aggressively to have the job filled by early spring.

“We’ve got too many good things happening to slow down,” council Chairman Geoff Gordon said.

Catherine Conlow, Orono’s town manager since 2004, stepped down last month to become Bangor’s city manager. Maria Weinberger, Orono’s assistant town manager, has filled in since but did not apply for the full-time job.

Gordon said the 40 applications represent a good pool of candidates. Ten were from Maine, while the rest were scattered across the country. Don Gerrish of Eaton Peabody Consulting, and a former town manager in Brunswick, has been contracted by Orono to lead the search. In addition, a citizen advisory group has been created to help the council make the decision.

Councilors are expected to conduct phone and video interviews with the six semifinalists and then will cull that list to two or three names, Gordon said. Those finalists will be brought to Orono for in-person interviews sometime in mid-January.

“We’re trying to be as aggressive as we can to get this done,” the council chairman said.

Still, Gordon and his colleagues understand that once a candidate is selected, it likely will be at least a month before the new manager begins. Bangor spent more than 10 months searching for a new city manager before settling on Conlow.

“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel,” Gordon said. “We want someone with good communication skills, someone who is open-minded, someone who will listen.”

Orono is home to the University of Maine, the state’s flagship university, which creates a dynamic few other communities can match.

There will be a number of exciting things waiting on the desk of the new manager when he or she arrives, including: the “Katahdin Project” an ambitious possible redevelopment and consolidation of five adjacent properties composing a 1.8-acre tract of land downtown along Main Street and alongside the Stillwater River; redevelopment of the former Webster Mill into 24 high-end condominiums overlooking the river and the possible creation of a business park off Kelley Road.

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