April 27, 2018
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Orono prepares to name new town manager

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — Town councilors are prepared to sign a three-year contract with Sophie Wilson to be the next town manager.
Orono councilors voted Monday to authorize Chairman Geoff Gordon to deliver the contract this week to Wilson, who is expected to sign and begin her new job April 1. Because the contract has not been signed, Gordon declined to release further details.
Wilson has been the town manager in Brownville for the last 10 years, and she knows Orono well, having earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Maine.
“Obviously, she comes from a smaller community, but she has organized that town in an impressive way,” Gordon said Monday after the special council meeting. “She’s poised for this step forward.”
Orono has been without a full-time manager since last November, when Catherine Conlow, the town’s manager from 2004 to 2010, took Bangor’s vacant city manager post.
Orono councilors moved quickly to fill Conlow’s position, whittling down a list of 40 applicants to three finalists in less than two months.
Don Gerrish of Eaton Peabody Consulting, a former town manager in Brunswick, was contracted by Orono to lead the search. A citizen advisory group also helped councilors make the decision.
The two other finalists, who were not identified, were not from Maine, according to Gordon, but that was not necessarily a deciding factor.
“It was certainly nice to have such a strong candidate from our state,” he said of Wilson.
Assistant Town Manager Maria Weinberger has served as Orono’s interim manager since November but did not apply for the full-time job. She said the municipal staff is excited for Wilson to take the reins.
“We’ve got so many good things happening right now,” Weinberger said. “It’s really exciting.”
In addition to her time in Brownville, Wilson has been involved in a number of regional and statewide municipal groups, including the Municipal Review Committee, the Maine Municipal Association and the State Workers’ Compensation Board.
She also was a municipal intern for the city of Bangor in 1995-96.
There will be a number of things waiting on the desk of the new manager when she arrives, including the Katahdin Project, which involves the redevelopment and consolidation of five adjacent properties composing a 1.8-acre tract 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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