Rockland turns to familiar face for interim city manager

Posted Dec. 23, 2013, at 8:11 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The Rockland City Council has turned to a familiar face to run city government.

The council voted unanimously Monday night to appoint Finance Director Tom Luttrell as interim city manager. He will fill in for City Manager James Smith, who submitted his resignation last week.

Smith will officially be resigning on Jan. 18, but he is taking unused vacation time from now through that date.

Luttrell served as acting city manager for five months after the resignation of Rosemary Kulow in September 2011. He has been finance director for the city since January 2007. He previously served as the business manager for School Administrative District 5 in Rockland from 2001 until January 2007.

Luttrell will serve as manager through Jan. 18. As of Jan. 18, the council will have to appoint a more long-term acting city manager, which also could be Luttrell.

Councilor Eric Hebert said even if the search process goes smoothly, the city is unlikely to find a more permanent city manager for three to six months. This means the city budget will be developed before a new manager is hired.

After appointing Luttrell, the council discussed the process for searching for a new city manager.

Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson said she saw no reason to rush to search for a new manager, saying the city had strong talented people already on staff. She questioned the wisdom of hiring someone from outside the area who was simply on a career path. The city should instead look for someone with a commitment to Rockland.

“We need someone that has the city running through their blood,” Dickerson said.

Councilor Frank Isganitis said the city should review what has not worked and led to the short-term stay for the past two managers.

“We need to find what the disconnect has been. Is it us not being honest and realistic of our expectations? Is it someone overselling themselves, or is it a combination?” Isganitis said.

Councilor Louise MacLellan-Ruf agreed, saying an autopsy, a forensic review needs to be undertaken.

Councilor Hebert said that the needs of the city have not changed much in the past 20 months, when the council last set goals and searched for a city manager. He said he liked the process used last time, including the use of consultants to do background checks. He said the consultants did not influence his vote.

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