AUGUSTA — Anyone with an interest in local government will get their chance to weigh in next week on what attributes they want to see in Augusta’s first new city manager in 23 years.

A public input gathering session is planned for 6:30 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

With longtime City Manager William Bridgeo poised to retire Sept. 10, a new hire is not likely to happen before his departure.

Susan Robertson, assistant city manager and human resources director, told city councilors Thursday the deadline for candidates to apply likely will be early- to mid-September, with interviews expected by the end of that month. Because it is unlikely the new person will start before Bridgeo leaves, it is anticipated an interim manager will be appointed to fill in that gap.

Bridgeo said Friday that Robertson, who served as a municipal manager for 24 years before she came to her current job in Augusta, expressed a willingness to serve in an acting city manager capacity during the hiring process.

She previously told city councilors she will not be a candidate for the job and is currently working with consultant Don Gerrish in that search.

Gerrish, a former longtime city manager now working as a consultant at Eaton Peabody Consulting Group, recommended the city hold the upcoming public input session to find out what locals want to see in their next manager. The purpose of that, he said, is to gather information about what community members believe are the major issues and challenges facing Augusta in the next five years. They also will be able to express what qualities, education, background, personality and experience the city’s next manager should possess.

“This has been well-received in other communities we’ve done it in; it gives the public an opportunity to have some input,” Gerrish told councilors at a city manager search workshop session earlier this month. “It’s not only your citizens, it’s your businesses, your groups in town, your chamber (of commerce). People like that; it gives them a chance to come in and give some input.”

He said the sessions elsewhere have had mixed results, with 80 people attending one in Rockland, but no one showing up in Ellsworth.

As part of the search process, Gerrish said, the city needs to decide — and advertise — the job’s salary range. He said $120,000 to $150,000 annually would put the city in the market for a top manager.

Bridgeo currently makes about $135,000 a year, with fringe benefits including a city-provided car.

From the start of the hiring process, Gerrish said, it should take about two months to have a new hire. Though, he said, that person may need more time to leave their job and relocate to Augusta.

Gerrish will screen initial applicants and forward top candidates to city councilors for them to interview and make their selection. He expects there were be 25 to 30 applicants, which he said he generally narrows down to around six.

“If we have six excellent candidates, we all ought to jump up and down and be happy,” Gerrish said. “The last few we’ve had, it’s been four, five, in the end. I may give you a recommendation of eight or nine. But if I don’t have them, I’m not recommending them.”

In his recommendations to councilors, he said he would include information about why he selected those candidates. But if they wish, Gerrish said, he can forward them resumes of all applicants and they can choose someone he didn’t recommend. He noted that in the last 15 or so manager hiring processes on which he worked, the municipalities have all selected someone he recommended.

Gerrish is also working as a consultant for the city of Gardiner in its search for a new city manager.

Ward 4 City Councilor Eric Lind urged Gerrish to broaden the areas where he’d usually look for city manager candidates.

“I’d like to see some veterans, maybe someone who doesn’t have experience in municipal government but has leadership qualities elsewhere,” he said.

In his search, Gerrish said, he will emphasize the criteria councilors and the public indicate they want used to select a new city manager. He said he generally looks at experience, ties to Maine, the ability to run an organization, skills managing people and finances, someone who has worked with a board before, and someone who fits the community and meets its needs.

The city charter requires the city manager to live in Augusta.

City Attorney Stephen Langsdorf recalled that when Bridgeo was hired 23 years ago, the city attorney at the time insisted that meant he had to move to Augusta in order to start the job. So Bridgeo moved into a “mother-in-law” apartment belonging to then-mayor the late John Bridge to start the job, until he could find and move into a home in Augusta.

Langsdorf said his interpretation of the charter requirement is that the new manager must move to Augusta within a reasonable amount of time, not immediately, within something like six months.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: