Nate Rudy said he kept up with what was going on in Hallowell mostly by reading the Kennebec Journal. As Hallowell’s new city manager, Rudy will be right in the middle of several newsworthy projects around the city for the next several years.

Rudy, 40, became Hallowell’s manager in early June, replacing Maureen AuCoin, who held the position for several months after the untimely March death of Stefan Pakulski. Pakulski was well-respected among elected officials and residents alike after leaving Readfield, where he spent 12 years as town manager, and later taking over in Hallowell.

“I knew Stefan informally after having met him at various functions, so I know I have big shoes to fill,” Rudy said during an interview last week in his City Hall office. “He was a good city manager and a good man.”

Rudy spent the last 18 months as the executive director of Waterville Creates!, a nonprofit group that promotes arts and culture in Waterville. Before that, he was the director of economic and community development for the city of Gardiner, and he said that experience will help him in his new role in Hallowell.

“I think I am good at understanding the challenges that small communities around Augusta face, including the change of our work culture, the changing economy and shifts in demographics,” Rudy said. “I learned a lot about that in Gardiner, and it is translating for me in Hallowell, though there are a lot of important differences.”

What Gardiner didn’t have when Rudy was there were the many large projects either underway or upcoming that Hallowell has.

The Water Street reconstruction project is still at least a year away, and though Rudy will have a big part in that, a more pressing matter is the redevelopment of the 54-acre Stevens School campus, which was sold by the state to local developer Matt Morrill in April.

Rudy said he’s familiar with the Stevens School project and the challenge of finding the right developer and vision for the campus. He said he believes he can step in and do a good job continuing work people have already started.

Rudy said he’s asked himself what makes Hallowell a great community and what can people do to work together to strengthen and preserve those things.

“We have a lot of great resources in Hallowell, and our job is to preserve and maintain them,” he said. “That responsibility falls on a broad cross-section of folks who live here and even others who are just interested parties who work here or spend time here and care about this place.

Since he took over as city manager on June 14, Rudy has started getting to know the elected officials, city staff and a lot of the residents. He said Mayor Mark Walker has been a great resource and is very forthcoming with information to help shape Rudy’s first 100 days as manager.

Within his first 100 days, Rudy wants “to be sure to understand the city’s staff and the needs and challenges they are facing, and he wants to build a good relationship and good rapport with the council. He also wants to establish a firm foundation for what the vision is for the Stevens School campus.

“We have a lot to offer our residents and visitors,” Rudy said. “What I want to do right now is listen and learn and find out what everybody cares about.”

Rudy definitely wants to hear everyone’s concerns about the Water Street project, especially the downtown businesses that would seem to be most threatened by the prospects of lost business due to the months-long construction.

“I want to make sure everyone is comfortable with and feels part of the conversation regarding the Water Street project,” Rudy said. “I also want to make sure everyone is comfortable talking to me and city staff about problems or issues they may have.”

With a new perspective on several of the projects and on the role of the city manager, Rudy said he’s already noticed some things he might be interested in talking about, but he didn’t want to be specific. He said he’s already raised several concerns and has gotten a broad range of feedback.

“I will probably have some ideas of my own as to how I’d like to administer city business, but at this point, I’m still listening.”

Rudy has had several opportunities to get to know and listen to Police Chief Eric Nason, who had a well-publicized issue several years ago when he was investigated by state police for sexual assault. Rudy said even though the accusations and subsequent controversy happened several years ago, he wanted to make sure he knows his employees. It’s Rudy’s responsibility to appoint the police chief every year.

“I know there have been challenges in the past that the city has dealt with, and I want to continue to uphold that level of professionalism and respect for the community and individuals who work and serve here,” Rudy said. He’s taken a tour of Hallowell with Nason and they have had several opportunities to get to know each other.

Rudy and his wife, Adrian Blevins, an associate professor at Colby College in Waterville, have almost finished moving back to their home in East Winthrop with their 17-year-old daughter. Rudy said summer is a bit more flexible with his family schedule, which will help him as he attends meeting after meeting while trying to get to know as much about Hallowell as he can.

“I continue to learn what people value about their local government, and I come in with a fresh pair of eyes,” he said. “I feel confident that if we all work together, then we’ll be successful here.”

Despite having little experience in city government, Rudy is confident that his past experience in management and budgeting and bringing new ideas forward will translate to Hallowell.

“Hallowell has been rejuvenated and it has become a great place,” Rudy said. “But staying a great place means meeting and addressing the challenges that come from a constantly evolving community.”

Rudy is excited about all of the possibilities in Hallowell and said that everyone has been welcoming and interested in keeping the conversation going and seeing what he can offer the city.

“I’ve had the good fortune of working in three communities I care a lot about,” Rudy said. “I hope I bring as much to Hallowell as I did to Gardiner and Waterville.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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