MADISON — After announcing plans to retire in December, Town Manager Dana Berry has been told by the Board of Selectmen that his last day on the job will be Friday.

Berry announced his retirement at a selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night, but following the meeting, the board went into an executive session and decided that the manager would leave office at the end of the week.

Selectman Chairman Al Veneziano said the decision for Berry to leave two and a half months early was based on his accumulation of enough vacation time and sick days to fill out the rest of the year. Veneziano said the town did not want to have to pay him for unused sick time and vacation days if he stayed until December.

There will be no immediate appointment of an interim manager to replace Berry while a search for a successor is conducted.

“We’re kind of feeling our way through here,” said Veneziano. “An interim person is not out of the question, but we didn’t feel comfortable naming someone right away.”

Berry’s salary and benefits will be continued through his announced retirement date, Dec. 31.

In the meantime, selectmen and department heads will manage town operations, Veneziano said.

“We have people who are in charge of departments who are very capable people,” he said. “I will basically be the person getting calls, but we also have a police chief and a road commissioner who are very capable of handling their departments.”

On Tuesday, Berry announced during a selectmen’s meeting that he would be retiring and that his last day would be Dec. 31. Sitting in his office on Wednesday afternoon, he said the decision came from the selectmen.

“I agreed to it, but I don’t know if it was mutual,” he said. “They’ve agreed to continue my wages and benefits through the end of the year though, so I’m fine.”

Selectmen will contact the Maine Municipal Association to see if there are services the organization can provide to help in the search, said Veneziano.

“I’m not sure exactly when we’ll have a full-time replacement, but I would probably say by the first of the year,” he said. “It takes time to collect applications and go through the process.”

Berry was hired as town manager in June 2011 after retiring as vice president at Backyard Farms, a position he held for four years. His father, Ronald, was Madison town manager in the early 1970s, and his mother was a state representative. He has also served multiple terms on the Board of Selectmen.

In the statement he read Tuesday night, Berry said his last day would be Dec. 31.

“After a great deal of discussion with my wife and family, I have decided to retire,” he said. “I want to thank the Board of Selectmen and the citizens of Madison for the opportunity to serve and their support. I especially want to thank all town employees for all their efforts and exceptional service they continually provide the community.”

In addition to his experience at Backyard Farms, Berry had a long career in human resources, including stints with Agway Inc., Mid-State Machine Products in Winslow and Solon Manufacturing in Skowhegan.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress in the last three and a half years,” he said.

During his tenure, the town connected to a newly constructed natural gas pipeline and expanded its tax increment financing agreement with Backyard Farms, a program that uses the property tax collected from the greenhouse and puts it toward economic development in town.

The old Madison Junior High School on Main Street was demolished and a new playground was built on the site. “The playground is enjoyed by parents and children not just in Madison, but also in surrounding communities,” said Berry.

There were also challenges including the withdrawal of three communities from the Madison-based school district and a federal lawsuit against the town by a former employee who accused Berry of gender discrimination. The lawsuit was recently settled out of court.

Earlier this year, the town was hit hard by the drop in the tax assessment of Madison Paper Industries, the town’s largest taxpayer. As a result of the projected shortfall in tax collections, officials voted to make cuts to the municipal budget, dip into town savings and seek out a $2.5 million loan to finance the budget.

“I think the whole tax issue around the mill is going to continue to be a challenge for the whole community and similar communities around the state,” said Berry, when asked what some of the greatest challenges of the job have been during his tenure.

He said he plans to continue living in Madison and is looking forward to spending more time with his family.

“We want to thank him for his three years of service, and we wish him and his wife the best in retirement,” said Veneziano.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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