November 13, 2019
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Orrington town manager resigns after ‘contentious’ 18 months

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Orrington town manager Paul White resigned Tuesday due to continuing disagreements with board Chairman Keith Bowden.

Orrington’s town manager made a deal with himself before Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting — if the mood became contentious, he was going to hasten his imminent resignation and quit on the spot.

That’s just what Paul White did.

The 66-year-old was set to resign Aug. 3 and had notified town staff and the Board of Selectmen of his decision July 9. But after continued disagreements with board Chairman Keith Bowden culminated Monday night, White said his last full day would be Tuesday.

“I finally made up my mind — that’s it,” White said Tuesday morning in his office. “It saddens me that I need to take this position now.”

In his July 9 letter, White said he would like to continue as manager, but “ethically I do not feel I can continue to serve under the current leadership of the board. It has become increasingly difficult for me to carry out my administrative responsibilities, which include seeing that all laws and provisions of the Charter are adhered to when the leadership may choose to ignore the scope of their roles [and] responsibilities, and the responsibilities of the manager.”

Having served the town for nearly 20 years — half of that time as town manager and another 7-year-stint as a selectmen member — White said his last year and a half, since Bowden became chair, has been the “most contentious.”

White said he and Bowden had chronic disagreements about the roles of town administrator and elected official, as defined in the town charter. Bowden, who was elected four years ago, acknowledged the ongoing contention, but said he “agreed to disagree” that the board’s overreach is the problem.

With White’s immediate departure, Bowden said it would be “challenging to fill a position with someone that has expertise, longevity and knowledge of the town. It’s always tough, but we will survive.”

Bowden said he’s not worried that prospective candidates would be deterred from taking the position. “I don’t see an incoming town manager being gun-shy, if you will,” he said.

An executive session has been scheduled for Monday, July 30, to talk interim candidates and the hiring process, Town Clerk Susan Carson said. An interim town manager has not been selected, but Bowden said he has two prospective candidates in mind. Carson said she was surprised to learn this. The board has had no meetings to discuss candidates, she said.

As for White, his departure as town official doesn’t mark his retirement, he said. “What am I doing tomorrow? I don’t know. There are other opportunities.”

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