BRUNSWICK, Maine — Presque Isle City Manager Jim Bennett and Brunswick’s interim town manager, John Eldridge, are the two finalists for the town manager position in Brunswick.
The Town Council, working with a consultant from the Maine Municipal Association, town attorney Steve Langsdorf from Preti Flaherty and Brunswick School Board member Joy Prescott selected three finalists from an initial pool of 49 applicants. One of the three recently withdrew his application, Brunswick Town Council Chairman Benet Pols said Tuesday, leaving Bennett and Eldridge as the top candidates..
Eldridge served as Brunswick’s director of finance for more than 25 years before being named interim town manager after the council dismissed former town manager Gary Brown in December.
Before coming to Brunswick, Eldridge served as town manager in Bradley and South Berwick.
Eldridge did not immediately return a phone call Tuesday.
Bennett, who has served as city manager of Presque Isle since 2010, is originally from Lisbon. He became a selectman there at age 21, according to the city website.
He has managed seven Maine communities including Dixfield, New Gloucester and Old Orchard Beach, and was city administrator for Westbrook and Lewiston. Prior to accepting the top administrative job in Presque Isle, he served as interim town manager in Sabattus.
In a release Tuesday, Bennett wrote that Brunswick is his wife’s hometown and close to his hometown of Lisbon.
“Brunswick is a wonderful community that my family and I know well,” he wrote. The town manager position represents a great professional opportunity. For 25 years, my wife has followed me to various communities throughout Maine that I have served. With each move, we have relocated our family and had to start as new members of those communities. While we have grown to appreciate how special each of those communities are, we have reached that point in our lives where we strongly desire to return home.”
Bennett added that he has not applied for other positions and has no immediate plans to do so.
Pols declined to comment on either candidate, but said the applicants came from at least 25 states including “all over New England,” and from small towns as well as the manager of a community of more than 100,000,
The Brunswick Town Council met in executive session on six occasions and conducted confidential initial interviews with six applicants on July 28 and 30.
“I think we had a good pool,” Pols said. “And one of the more remarkable things about this was that when we [narrowed the pool] from 15 to six, how much consensus there was. It was pretty clear that these six were getting [support] from essentially everybody in the group.”
The Maine Municipal Association is checking the backgrounds of the two finalists, and the two will be formally introduced to the community during an open house and televised question-and-answer session tentatively slated for early September. Additional interviews with the council may be scheduled later.
Along with councilors Gerald Favreau and David Watson, Pols served on the council in 2009, when Brown was hired after a controversial process that divided the council and much of the town. Brown succeeded Don Gerrish, who served almost two decades as Brunswick’s town manager.
“I think those of us that are still on the Brunswick council from the last time learned some things from the last process,” he said. “We learned that citizen involvement and input is important on a broad scale.”
Pols encouraged residents to attend the open house and the question-and-answer session, and added, “I hope the community will participate in a meaningful way.”