Waterville Mayor Jay Coelho, right, looks on Tuesday as Bryan Kaenrath signs a five-year contract to become the city manager of Waterville. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — A former state legislator who is Saco’s city administrator has been hired as Waterville’s city manager, beginning July 31.

The City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday to hire Bryan Kaenrath, 39, for a five-year term at a starting annual salary of $155,000, with adjustments to be based on performance and annual evaluations. The vote followed a brief executive session.

Kaenrath served as a Democrat in the Maine House of Representatives from 2006 to 2014, representing the cities of Portland and South Portland.

Kaenrath, who graduated in 2006 from the University of Maine with a degree in political science, grew up in northern New Jersey and with his family spent vacations on Maine’s Midcoast. He said in an interview after Tuesday’s meeting he knew when he graduated from UMaine he wanted to remain in the state.

Before becoming Saco’s city administrator in November 2019, Kaenrath was town administrator for two years in North Hampton, New Hampshire, and, before that, town manager for three years in Gouldsboro in Hancock County.

Kaenrath was among 10 candidates from across the country to apply for the Waterville job, which was vacated in December by Steve Daly, who resigned abruptly for what he called urgent, personal circumstances.


Bryan Kaenrath is set to begin July 31 as Waterville’s city manager. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

Acting City Manager Bill Post, the city’s assistant city manager, said after Tuesday’s meeting he is excited to have Kaenrath join the city’s administrative staff.

“His experience in the Legislature and other communities in Maine will be a tremendous asset to the city,” Post said. “I’m looking forward to the team that he and I will create to carry the city forward.”

Mayor Jay Coelho, who has said he will not run for reelection in November, endorsed the selection of Kaenrath, and said it will be easier to leave the mayor’s office knowing a qualified person is at the helm.

“Bryan’s going to be fun,” Coelho said. “He’s young. He knows his stuff. He’s going to fit right in like an old shoe — he really is. I’m happy to have him here. We’ll get to work with each other for a few months. From the first interview, he stuck right out. He knew everyone’s name. He knew the history of the city. He knew all of the councilors. It was just a breath of fresh air.”

Kaenrath, who is single, said after Tuesday’s meeting he was drawn to Waterville because of what is happening with the city’s revitalization and the opportunities it presents. He said he has been coming through Waterville over the years and been impressed with the progress made here.

Vowing to work to make a difference in people’s lives, Kaenrath cited a number of priorities for the city, including more housing and investment in infrastructure.


“I think the council is on a very good track,” he said. “I think we have to talk about the housing situation, affordable housing, workforce housing, as well as what we do with the unhoused population.”

Kaenrath said investing in the city’s infrastructure, developing a capital plan and investing in city staff members, including providing them development and training opportunities, are additional priorities. Continuing downtown revitalization efforts is also important, he said.

Asked to describe his proudest accomplishment as a state legislator, Kaenrath said he felt most valuable when doing something tangible to help people. For 20 years, he said, legislators and others talked about installing a sound barrier on Interstate 295 to help with traffic noise and vehicle exhaust that affected some neighborhoods to the point residents could not use their decks and children did not play outside.

He said he met with officials from the Maine Department of Transportation and, with help from others, they got the barrier installed. Kaenrath, who was 25 at the time, said people thanked him for his persistence.

“They said: ‘You’ve changed our lives. We can use our decks again. The kids can play in the back yard again,'” he recalled.

Kaenrath will oversee 135 full-time employees and about 40 part-time or seasonal employees in Waterville, which has a population of about 16,500.


The city of Saco, with a population of about 20,000, has 200 full-time employees and about 200 part-time or seasonal workers, he said.

Kaenrath met with Waterville department heads before being hired and said he found them knowledgeable, experienced and dedicated to the city.

“I was really impressed with them,” he said. “You have a number of very longtime employees. I think that’s a testament to the organization overall.”

Kaenrath said he wants to get out into the city to meet and talk with residents and set up neighborhood meetings.

“I have been doing this since I was in the Legislature,” he said. “I hope to meet as many people as I can.”

The City Council voted Feb. 7 to hire Eaton Peabody Consulting Group of Augusta for $9,000 to conduct the city manager search.


Kaenrath’s contract says he must become, and remain, a city resident no later than Jan. 31. He is entitled to up to $8,500 in moving expenses. He will be given 10 vacation days on the day he begins the job and will accrue vacation at the rate of 25 days a year, according to the contract. He will also be given five sick days when he starts and is entitled to accumulate 960 hours of sick leave. His contract also provides a $300 monthly automobile allowance.

Daly’s resignation in December came nearly two years into a three-year contract. He had earned $125,000 his first year and $130,000 the second year.

Daly, 75, did not respond at the time to multiple requests for comment on the reasons for his departure, and his severance agreement stipulated he not talk about the resignation. City officials would also not comment.

Post has served as acting city manager since Daly resigned and chose not to apply for the city manager’s spot, saying he preferred to remain in the assistant’s position.

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