HALLOWELL — City Manager Michael Starn just got back from a Florida vacation. The objective? To find a place to spend the winter after retirement.

Starn, 64, of Manchester, who has managed Hallowell since 2011, has long planned to retire in October, and a committee was recently formed to kick off the search for his replacement.

It’s the end of a long career around local government. Before coming to Hallowell, he spent 35 years as a spokesman for the Maine Municipal Association, an advocacy group for cities and towns. He likened the switch to “doing battle as a general” versus fighting in the trenches.

“It’s an eye-opener,” Starn said. “You really get a greater appreciation for what municipal officials go through and the decisions they have to make.”

Councilor George Lapointe, who is chairman of the committee charged with finding Starn’s replacement, said he expects the city to advertise the position in April and hopes to hire a candidate before Starn leaves to allow a good transition. The applicant must have “the ability to deal with a lot of issues at once,” which is nothing new.

“The job has not changed much and won’t change much,” Lapointe said.

During Starn’s tenure, Hallowell took definitive steps on some long-term issues. Last year, it signed an agreement with the state to rebuild the crowned downtown stretch of Water Street and established a downtown tax-increment financing district expected to fund future development in the city’s core.

There have been challenges as well. He has faced budgetary pressures after state cuts and rising school budgets and drew criticism from some over his handling of allegations against Police Chief Eric Nason.

In 2013, the chief was investigated by the Maine State Police for an alleged sexual assault of a female officer. The case was closed without charges, but after publicity around the allegation, another woman came forward to allege misconduct in 2014. Starn reprimanded Nason, but recommended him for reappointment to his job, which city councilors ratified in January.

“I still feel confident that the right decisions were made,” Starn said. “Not everybody agrees with that, but sometimes managers have to make decisions that not everybody agrees with.”

Councilor Phillip Lindley voted against Nason’s reappointment, and he has criticized Starn for not informing councilors while the chief was under investigation. He said he’ll be looking for a managerial candidate with “some practical experience in actually managing a town,” which Starn and his two predecessors didn’t have.

But Lindley praised Starn for being good with members of the public and city staff, saying he has been responsive to councilors’ requests.

“Overall, I think he’s done a good job,” he said.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652

[email protected]

Twitter: @mikeshepherdme


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