FARMINGTON — Selectmen reversed their endorsement of Town Manager Richard Davis for a statewide town manager mentoring program Tuesday night after one member said he felt rushed into making a decision earlier in the month.

Selectmen two weeks ago unanimously approved a letter Davis drafted endorsing his application for the program.

The three selectmen who changed their positions on the endorsement Tuesday said they were concerned the commitment would take away time that should be focused on Farmington.

The two who voted for the endorsement said it was an honor for Davis, a minimal time commitment and a good networking opportunity.

Chairman Ryan Morgan and Andrew Hufnagel reversed their original support after Hufnagel said he felt rushed to make a decision during the June 11 unanimous vote and Morgan said Davis had made remarks indicating he didn’t have enough time to take on new projects.

Jessica Berry and Dennis Pike maintained support of the endorsement.

Newly elected Joshua Bell wondered aloud about the pros and cons of making the endorsement before voting against it.

The program includes a three-year ambassador position designed to help experienced town managers mentor new ones.

Bert Kendall, the program’s founder, said he’d asked Davis, along with a handful of other town managers, to apply because of Davis’ great reputation in the field. The application is open to anyone who is a member of a Maine Municipal Association-affiliated group.

Davis has been Farmington town manager for 12 years and before that was the Wilton town manager for 13 years.

Hufnagel asked the board to reconsider the earlier unanimous endorsement because he felt rushed into making a decision at the last board meeting. The endorsement letter was not included on the agenda for the June 11, meeting but board members were asked in the other business portion of the meeting to sign the letter of recommendation Davis drafted.

Davis said the item was not included on the agenda because he had just found out about the program.

Hufnagel made a motion Tuesday to not endorse Davis for the program, saying he felt the ambassador program would take away Davis’ focus from Farmington when they will have to make complicated budget decisions in the upcoming year.

“We are going to have a lot on our plate coming up in the next year or two,” he said. “I’m going to be personally asking our town manager and I’m going to be asking the board to maybe direct Richard in a proactive manner in the next coming year or two that I’m on the board.”

Davis said he already gets calls from other town managers seeking advice and makes the time commitment to answer their questions. The position, he said, would be more of a title recognizing him as a mentor.

Berry said the position could be a networking opportunity for Davis and the commitment seemed minimal, judging from the job description the board was provided with.

Morgan said he voted to rescind the endorsement after Davis said at the last board meeting that he did not have enough time to work on an outreach effort with the town’s sister city, Lac Megantic, Quebec. Morgan said that showed that Davis did not have enough time to take up new commitments.

Davis apologized for what he described as a stressed response to Morgan’s request for the Lac Megantic outreach and said he would be happy to assist anyone familiar with the city.

Bell also said Davis should keep his manager duties as his primary focus and not take part in the ambassador program.

Pike said all the concerns about time were sufficiently addressed and said selectmen should endorse Davis.

“I’d say it was probably a show of respect and support to ask for Mr. Davis to join and a good reflection on the town, and I certainly would not ask him to if it was placing too much of a burden,” Pike said. “I would think it is an honor.”

Kendall, chairman of the Range Riders committee, an MMA-affiliated organization of retired town managers, said ambassadors can accept as many calls as they want. If they are busy they can refer the caller to another ambassador. He said requirements of the position are that a task not be accepted if it’s at the expense of the manager’s town.

“Certainly, they’re not going to take on anything that’s a conflict in their own town duties,” he said.
He said he foresees an ambassador accepting one or two calls a month.

Kendall said he formed the ambassador program because his committee has dwindled to two members and lost some of its traditional ability to mentor young town leadership.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252
[email protected]

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