Bryan Kaenrath, new city manager of Waterville, sits at his 1920s-era antique desk in his new office at City Hall in Waterville on Thursday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — Bryan Kaenrath believes a city manager does his job best when he has a good pulse of the community.

That is why Kaenrath, who has been on the job since July 31, has been walking the streets, popping into businesses and meeting owners and employees.

“This is a great community,” Kaenrath, 40, said Thursday. “We have a lot of people who really care about the direction of this place and what’s happening, and that’s really good to know. It does take a village.”

Kaenrath (pronounced “cane wrath”) made the comments as he was sitting in his City Hall office, which has large windows overlooking Castonguay Square. The office already bears his personal mark, with mementos from his most recent job as Saco city administrator, his eight years as a state legislator and his love of sailing and all things nautical.

There’s a heavy, 8-foot-long wooden table from the 1920s that serves as his desk and which he brought from Saco. On it lies a blue and gold compass from a sailing ship, a large sea shell and a worn copy of “The Centennial History of Waterville,” published in 1902.

A legislative class photo hangs on the north wall; a gold-framed Maine House roster from 1901 hangs on the south. Above a small conference table is a framed painting of a sailboat, under which sits a homemade model of a Bath Iron Works Wickes class destroyer, painted gray and red.


On either side of it are other items he treasures: two original sketches of sailboats done in pencil by former President John F. Kennedy on 1950s U.S. Senate stationery.

“I got them from an auction in Boston,” Kaenrath recalled. “He was known for sitting and doodling.”

In the two weeks since he has been on board, Kaenrath has been attending a lot of meetings with staff — which number between 135 and 140, with about 40 seasonal workers — and getting acquainted with departments and the public. He attended a Waterville Housing Committee meeting Wednesday night and was planning to attend a comprehensive planning meeting Thursday afternoon, he said.

“I’m trying to get out to all the boards and committees and introduce myself and learn what’s going on,” he said.

Initially, he said, he wants to meet staff on their own turf to get a feel for who they are and what they do.

“I always like to go to their offices, as a way to see people in their natural habitat,” he said. “I always travel to people, at least in the beginning.”


Kaenrath also plans to do walking tours of neighborhoods and has been scheduling meetings with former Waterville mayors. He planned to meet with former Mayor Karen Heck Friday and already has met with former City Manager Michael Roy, whom he knows and respects and says is someone who continues to be dedicated to the community.

“I think Mike and I will be talking frequently,” he said.

When he was hired by a unanimous vote of the City Council in May, Kaenrath said in an interview with the Morning Sentinel that the progress being made in Waterville is one of the things that drew him to apply for the job. He grew up in northern New Jersey, vacationed with his family on midcoast Maine and later attended University of Maine. During his time in the state, he often traveled through and visited Waterville.

Bryan Kaenrath, new city manager of Waterville, sits at his 1920s-era antique desk in his new office at City Hall in Waterville on Thursday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

His priorities for the city include housing — such as affordable and workforce housing — and focusing on those who are unhoused.

Continuing downtown revitalization and creating a vibrant city center also is a priority, as is creating economic opportunities for people, he said. Working to develop vacant upper stories of buildings downtown into housing also is a focus, though Kaenrath acknowledges that doing so with older buildings can present challenges.

“I think that is definitely a possibility, especially post-COVID where we’re seeing more of a drive for residential as opposed to commercial space,” he said.


Having more people living downtown generates foot traffic and brings people into the city to visit, shop, dine and recreate, according to Kaenrath. “It’s all interconnected,” he said.

Kaenrath will be paid a starting annual salary of $155,000. His contract says he must become, and remain, a city resident no later than Jan. 31. Kaenrath said he has been looking for a place, though the real estate market is such that homes are snapped up quickly. He is entitled to up to $8,500 in moving expenses.

He was given 10 vacation days on the day he started and will accrue vacation at the rate of 25 days a year, according to the contract. He also was issued five sick days when he started and is entitled to accumulate 960 hours of sick leave. His contract also provides a $300 monthly automobile allowance.

Kaenrath succeeds former City Manager Steve Daly whose sudden 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.

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