GARDINER — A former public works director in Portland is one of two finalists for the city manager position in Gardiner.

Michael Bobinsky, now director of public works and utilities in Somersworth, New Hampshire, had worked in Portland for 12 years until his departure in 2015.

Bobinsky was in Gardiner on Monday to meet with the public, following meetings with city department heads and in executive session with members of the City Council as part of the interview process.

The other finalist, who has not been identified publicly yet, is expected to be in Gardiner on Monday to follow the same process.

In front of about 30 residents, business people, city staff members and elected officials in the Gardiner Public Library’s Hazzard Room, Bobinsky gave a recap of his career in New Hampshire, Maine, Colorado and Utah, where he has worked in municipal government, mostly in senior leadership positions involved in direct services, and he has played a role in reorganizing public works and related departments.

“This is the level where we really make a difference, and we really can see the outcomes of our work,” Bobinsky said of municipal government, “whether its raising and dealing with taxes to working on projects like the bridge projects, making sure we have clean water or making sure the community is safe.”

What attracted him to Gardiner is the community and the level of engagement as well as the economic development progress that’s ongoing.

Initially, he said, he wasn’t interested in considering the position when he was first recruited, but when the opportunity arose again, he was more interested based on his desire to lead in a community.

The challenges he sees in Gardiner include maintaining a stable tax rate and fiscal stability.

“In Gardiner, how do we grow the base and preserve what we currently have in the historic aspect? There’s a combination in upgrading and preserving the historic parts of the city and finding opportunities in spreading that tax base out,” he said.

No one wants to see an increase in property taxes, but the city has to maintain its ability to deliver quality services, Bobinsky said.

“If I am investor, I would rather see a community that invests in itself,” he said. “I would be inclined to take a look here.

Bobinsky fielded several questions, including one from resident Phyllis Gardiner about economic development in Gardiner and what role the city manager plays in economic development.

City officials are currently pondering what path they will take in the new budget year. For the past several years, the city has contracted with Gardiner Main Street for economic development services, and Gardiner Main Street Executive Director Patrick Wright has served as economic development coordinator.

But with his departure, at the end of May, city officials have a policy decision to make about whether to restore a full-time position to the budget or come up with another arrangement, which may depend on the skills of the city manager they hire.

“The city manager’s role is entwined in economic development for a variety of reasons,” he said. “I see myself involved with looking at the pieces of development. Do you have the adequate infrastructure to support growth, do you have the legal mechanisms such as what you have here with tax increment financing districts, do you have capital plans, do you have a budget for marketing the city or do we have to advocate for that? I see the manager’s role as a combination of managing those functions and advocating for them.”

Having a single point of contact is helpful, he said, and developers prefer that.

Bobinsky also talked about his approach to having an open-door policy for residents, the differences in size and staffing of the departments where he has worked, how he interacts with colleagues and employees, and how he approached reorganizing departments and dealing with the aftermath of those changes.

Debby Willis, who serves as chairwoman of the Gardiner Planning Board and Ordinance Review Committee, asked Bobinsky what would make his heart sing about working in Gardiner.

“If I were to look back and see the successes of our staff in maintaining exceptional services, achieving a stable tax rate and finances, growing the city in an appropriate balance between commercial and residential, contributing to the strength of the education system and infrastructure — If I were to look back and say I was a part of that, that would make my heart sing.”

Bobinsky has worked in Somersworth, a community that has about twice the population of Gardiner as of the 2010 Census, since December 2015.

He had been director of public services in Portland for 12 years before stepping down earlier that year.

At the time, it was reported that Bobinsky had been granted paid leave for two months and would resign to pursue other opportunities, and city officials termed the separation as mutual and amicable.

At the time, he was one of several top city administrators who left their positions with the city of Portland.

Before he worked at Portland, he was deputy city manager-general services director for Draper City, Utah, from 1999 to 2003; director of community services in Dover, New Hampshire, from 1994 to 1999; and the director of public works for Concord, New Hampshire, from 1988 to 1994.

According to his profile at Municipal Resources Inc., he has a Bachelor of Arts degree in public administration from the University of Northern Colorado, and a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Colorado Graduate School of Public Affairs.

Bobinsky has been married for 34 years and has two adult children, who both live in Massachusetts.

Those who attended were asked to fill out feedback forms on the candidate and return them to City Hall.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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