HALLOWELL — Mayor Mark Walker said the passing of City Manager Stefan Pakulski was a huge loss for the city that leaves a hole that will be difficult to fill.

Pakulski, 57, who was hired as city manager in September, died unexpectedly Saturday night. Walker said he was told that Pakulski suffered a heart attack, but the official cause of death has not been determined.

“We only had him for six months, but I think he made a difference,” Walker said. “He was very hands on and he was really good in areas that past managers weren’t as good with.”

The Hallowell City Council paid tribute to Pakulski Monday night with a moment of silence and a bouquet of flowers at his desk in the council’s chamber at City Hall.

Walker said he expected the search to replace Pakulski to take several months. Pakulski worked as Readfield’s town manager for 12 years until he resigned in February 2015.

During the meeting Monday night, Walker alluded to several people who would be candidates to become the interim city manager while the city looks for a permanent replacement. He said there are some internal candidates, former elected officials and some high-profile residents who would all be strong options.

The council set a special meeting for next Monday when they will appoint an interim manager. Walker will handle those duties for the next seven days, as allowed under Hallowell’s charter.

“We’re looking at a substantial amount of time where we’ll have an interim city manager,” Walker said during the meeting. The council talked briefly about whether they should use a consulting firm to handle the search, and more discussion on the permanent replacement should be expected during the next several council meetings.

Walker said Pakulski, despite having only started working for the city in October, was heavily involved with a number of projects, including the upcoming Water Street reconstruction, the Stevens School project and the city’s budget. Walker said he and Pakulski recently discussed the budget.

“He was putting together a capital improvements plan,” Walker said. “He had a good feel for what needed to get done, what it should cost, and we were really looking forward to that.”

Without a city manager for the foreseeable future, Walker said councilors and staffers will have to “step up and handle certain issues.”

“We have to do something so we can have a day-to-day administrator,” Walker said. “We will have to figure that out soon.”

Councilor George LaPointe said he spoke with Pakulski on Friday and was shocked when he heard the news. LaPointe agreed with Walker that Pakulski will be hard to replace.

“For the town, he fit a groove for us and was getting stuff done,” LaPointe said. “As a friend and a professional, it’s a huge loss. It seems like an unfillable hole at this point.”

LaPointe said Pakulski brought a great level of professionalism to the job. He said he had a keen sense for what needed to be done because of his previous experience in municipal government.

“He was just fun to work with, and I know it sounds small, but that’s a good thing,” LaPointe said. “He was straightforward and knowledgeable, aboveboard and friendly. He’ll be hard to replace.”

Sophie Gabrion, who joined the council in January, echoed the sentiments from her colleagues and said her early months on the council were greatly enhanced by Pakulski. She said he had a really good grasp of what comprehensive communication was for a city and how to bring people together.

“It can be challenging to know procedural pieces or asking (questions), but Stefan was always willing to take the time to meet with me or talk to me,” Gabrion said. “I don’t know if my first three months in my council seat would have been as streamlined or as easy as they were without his support.”

Funeral arrangements for Pakulski have not yet been made public.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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