Jackman selectmen have voted unanimously to hire an interim town manager after their widely reported firing of Tom Kawczynski for his endorsement of racial segregation and his anti-feminist and anti-Islam remarks.

Mitchell Berkowitz, who has 43 years of experience in municipal government, will assume the role part time in February and will assist the Board of Selectmen in its search for a permanent town manager.

“I think Jackman will get past the issue from this week,” Berkowitz said in an interview Saturday. “I’m privileged to be a part of that.”

Although he officially retired in 2014, Berkowitz temporarily filled in for Jackman when a previous town manager who had been struggling with health problems stepped down in 2015. Berkowtiz worked for the town from March that year until the end of 2015, and then again from March 2017 until Kawczynski took over in July.

According to a news release the board issued Friday, Berkowitz’s employment agreement, which the board voted on Wednesday to approve, is “open-ended” and allows the board to terminate the agreement without cause with a 48-hour notice.

Berkowitz, 69, who is originally from Monsey, New York, is holding a temporary position for the town of Naples until a newly hired town manager assumes his position in February. He previously has held town manager jobs in Bridgton and Gray, where he now lives with his wife, as well as in Colchester, Vermont, and Berlin, New Hampshire. Additionally, he worked for the federal government for two years as a civilian at Westover Airforce Base in Springfield, Massachusetts.

During his time in Jackman, Berkowitz said he will be focusing on getting a budget ready for Town Meeting and helping address the loss of the town’s 24-hour emergency medical care.

Alsoy, he will aid the board in its search for candidates for the full-time town manager position. Berkowitz said he already has begun evaluating four recruiting agencies the town could use to find qualified people.

Perhaps Berkowitz’s most important role, however, will be to bring stability back to the town’s government.

Kawczynski’s firing, which took place Tuesday when the selectmen voted 4-0 to terminate his contract, brought national and unwanted scrutiny to the small tourist community. Many residents feared that Kawczynki, who also was given a $30,000 in settlement so that he would not take legal action against the town, and his beliefs would affect how outsiders view Jackman, potentially tarnishing the town’s image and hurting its business community.

Berkowitz acknowledged this challenge and said he will be working to help repair the damage done by Kawczynski.

“The biggest thing right now is to make Jackman a place where people want to go again,” he said, but added that given his experience of working with the people of Jackman, he’s confident that the town’s reputation as a friendly tourist community and key border town will remain intact.

“I know the Jackman people very well, and that is not who Jackman is,” he said, alluding to Kawczynski’s views. “I think they are very special, and anyone who has been there and seen the beauty of the town will want to come back.”

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg