The Hallowell City Council meets Monday via Zoom to discuss the upcoming search for the next city manager. Screenshot via Zoom

HALLOWELL — City councilors spoke with a consultant Monday night in preparation for Hallowell’s upcoming search for a city manager.

David Barrett, a consultant with the Maine Municipal Association, met with the City Council during a meeting over the Zoom videoconferencing platform.

During the meeting, councilors laid out roles and skills for the job’s ideal candidate. They also discussed upcoming projects that will involve the next city manager.

Councilors said the ideal candidate would have aptitude in a number of areas, including municipal finance, managing many city employees and interpersonal skills.

Former City Manager Nate Rudy left the job and city in late February to become town manager in Gray. Hallowell councilors voted unanimously Feb. 25 to name Code Enforcement Officer Doug Ide as interim city manager.

Also in February, city councilors voted unanimously to allocate up to $8,000 to hire a consultant to help the city find its next manager.

Barrett said Monday’s meeting was used to gauge what councilor’s want in candidates and what projects the city manager would likely tackle. After the meeting, Barrett said he would draft an advertisement for the job, which should be done Tuesday.

“That information is important for a variety of reasons,” Barrett said. “Candidates will call me and ask me what (the city) is looking for.”

Barrett said MMA would screen résumés and communicate with candidates throughout the process. The organization would also coordinate appointments and provide councilors with needed materials when candidates are interviewed.

Barrett said MMA has been getting more applicants lately for municipal positions. He said, for example, he was searching for candidates for a position in Corinth, and received 63 responses when he expected about 20.

Barrett said there has been a significant increase in the number of applicants from other states. He said this might be due to people losing jobs or looking to relocate to “safer” places during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It may be a mix of things,” he said. “It’s hard to tell sometimes.”

Councilor Maureen AuCoin said an ideal candidate would have a knowledge of municipal finance, ability to manage employees and experience with unions. Further, Aucoin said the city manager serves as the city’s road commissioner, so familiarity with that role would be helpful, too.

Barrett said he did not see Hallowell as a “starter kit community.” He said the city has some complicating aspects, such as a historic district and collective bargaining agreements with employees.

“I certainly don’t view Hallowell as an entry-level municipal management position,” Barrett said.

Councilor Michael Frett said candidates should be “comfortable getting outside of their office,” and able to touch bases with the city’s different groups.

“That person should be a key component to have the council receive the heartbeat of what is in the community,” Frett said. “I think that is something that can be gleaned from a candidate’s background experience.”

Councilor Berkeley Almand-Hunter said the ideal candidate would also have skills in economic development and communications.

Councilor Kate Dufour said the city manager must understand how everything works at City Hall, with an understanding of every city position.

Aucoin, who has raised questions in the past about diversity in city positions, said the city has never had a female city manager, and the city should look into where the job is advertised.

Frett said advertising in Maine may not lead to a diverse pool of candidates.

Barrett said it is rare a city forms a subcommittee to interview candidates, but it was more common for a subcommittee to review the résumés. He said most candidates would prefer to meet with the entire council, which would provide applicants a better understanding of the community and it leaders.

Mayor George Lapointe said there was an interview committee in the previous search, which included a member of the public.

Councilor Diana Scully said the interview committee should be the same as the decision committee, which would be the City Council.

Concerning goals for the next few years, Lapointe said the city is straddling the line between what it “wants” to do and important budget constraints.

He said he would like to expand Hallowell’s cooperation with Augusta and Gardiner, and to look into improving the city’s economic development efforts.

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