Hampden’s recently departed town manager said that he hoped to keep working for the town for a long time, but that he resigned two weeks ago because Mayor Ivan McPike asked him to following a divisive round of budget negotiations by the Town Council.
Jim Chandler, who stepped down July 1 after becoming Hampden’s town manager one year earlier, said McPike did not elaborate on the reasons for asking him to leave.
But Chandler noted that there have been disagreements on the Town Council about how the town should use its resources to promote growth, which flared during the recent budget process.
“The council is extraordinarily divided,” Chandler said this week. “I got the sense that they were divided about my continuing as the manager, and taking the town in a direction of growth and development. I didn’t feel comfortable there. The budget process was extremely challenging.”
McPike, who serves as chairperson of the Town Council, did not respond to a phone call Monday. He has previously declined to comment on Chandler’s resignation, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters. Other councilors have also declined to comment on his resignation.
On June 17, the council narrowly passed the $10.2 million budget that Chandler helped draft for the new fiscal year, which included an additional $213,086 for the wages and benefits of two new administrative positions that the town is creating.
Councilors voted 4-3 to approve the budget after debating whether to fund both new positions: a manager of the town’s capital improvement projects and a new economic development director.
Under a resignation agreement for Chandler that the Town Council approved July 1, which the BDN obtained through a public records request, he earned a severance payment that’s worth five months of salary. His salary was $90,000 at the time of his resignation, meaning the payment was roughly $37,500.
This week, Chandler also said that he does not have any ill will toward the town of Hampden, that he is proud of the work he did on several large municipal projects and that he generally enjoyed working there.
He particularly praised the town’s staff but said the recent turnover in managers has not served them well.
“If they can’t find a good manager that they’re satisfied with and they keep moving people through that seat, that’s tough on the staff,” Chandler said. “They were working hard on behalf of citizens. They deserve the opportunity to have someone in that job. They need someone that can be comfortable and confident in that position for more than just a year or two. That seems to be the cycle they’re in, and I feel for them.”
Before Chandler started the job in June 2018, his predecessor, Angus Jennings, had worked there for almost three years. Jenning’s predecessor, Susan Lessard, worked for the town for almost 15 years.
Town Clerk Paula Scott is now serving as interim town manager.
Before Chandler started working for Hampden, he served as Dexter’s town manager beginning in September 2017. He has also served as Caribou’s assistant city manager and held several other county and municipal government jobs in his native state of Virginia.
Chandler said that he is looking for other positions and would like to continue working in Maine.