GARDINER — Gardiner officials have identified a candidate for city manager, and he has been invited for a second interview.

Christopher Ryan

Christopher Ryan, currently the director for community and economic development in Harvard, Massachusetts, will visit Gardiner on Sept. 28 to meet with city staff, tour municipal facilities, meet with members of the public at a community gathering and have a second interview with the Gardiner City Council.

Ryan was one of 12 people to apply for the city’s top administrative post when the search opened earlier this year. Mayor Patricia Hart said of those 12, five were invited to interview, but two withdrew.

Of the three remaining candidates, Ryan was invited for a second interview.

Ryan, 61, said Monday that he’s interested in position for several reasons, including taking the next step in his career.

“I’m looking for an opportunity to do some more challenging things,” Ryan said. “I have always wanted to have a chance to lead a community and to lead a municipal organization.”

Ryan said he’d like to use his experience to help Gardiner deal with some of the challenges he has seen in his research.

Communities face challenges in improving the commercial tax base and improving the quality of life, he said, regardless of where they are.

Gardiner’s historic downtown is a great resource in the community, as is its location on the Kennebec River and Cobbosseecontee Stream. Those are assets that can be built on, he said.

Ryan said he wants the communities he works for to have those kinds foundations and characteristics. “Those are the kind of the communities that really are going to be able to be competitive and are the types of communities we have to have going forward dealing with energy issues, dealing with financial and budgeting issues. They often offer a kind of template for creating and enhancing the community” to bring in tourists, and businesses and people that want to move there.

Harvard and Gardiner have similar populations, but differ in other ways.

Harvard, located in Worcester County about 25 miles from Boston, has a population of about 6,800 as of the 2020 census. Median household income between 2015 and 2019 was $156,667 in 2019 dollars. Harvard’s property tax rate for residential properties is $18.78 per $1,000 of assessed value and $18.75 per $1,000 of assessed value for commercial, industrial and personal property.

Gardiner’s population is 5,961 as of the 2020 census and between 2015 and 2019 had a median household income of $49,627 in 2019 dollars. Gardiner’s tax rate is $21.70 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Ryan said intergovernmental transfers or grants are a big part of what needs to be done for all communities to bring back tax dollars, not only communities that are wealthy but also those that are challenged with a lower median income.

At the same time, finding commercial development that’s suitable for the community is important.

“It’s finding that fine line, that balancing factor and not taking whatever economic opportunities that are available, they have to fit the community,” Ryan said. “It’s really doing your homework and learning about the town and the community and what the citizens are interested in and going after that.”

Ryan has been a department head as a planner or economic development professional for 30 years. He has seen the challenges outside the realm of economic development and planning and would like a chance to influence those areas.

For the last two decades, he has worked in Massachusetts, having served at his current post for three years. Before that, Ryan was an adjunct professor at Clark University for nearly five years, in addition working as self-employed planning consultant and filling in as interim director of planning and development for the city of Leominster, Massachusetts, for four months.

He is a certified planner through the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Ryan said communication and transparency are important in a leader. And while a hierarchy in a management setting is important, he said teamwork is important to building trust.

“I am an open communicator,” Ryan said. “I’m somebody who lays it out, and I am who I seem to be.”

Gardiner’s city manager vacancy was created when Christine Landes resigned in March, about three months before the end of her contract.

Landes had been appointed city manager in June 2018. Landes came to Gardiner from Bethel, where she had been town manager since 2014. This year she was hired as New Gloucester’s town manager and started work there in May.

Since Landes’s departure, Anne Davis has served as acting city manager, in addition to her duties as director of the Gardiner Public Library.

The community gathering will be hosted at the headquarters of E.J. Prescott at 32 Prescott St. in the Libby Hill Business Park. The location was chosen to allow for physical distancing.

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