Contract not yet finalized — Former Rockport manager chosen by Bridgton Selectmen

NEW TOWN MANAGER — Robert Peabody (right)  was introduced as Bridgton’s new Town Manager at the June 11 Town Meeting, pending agreement of both parties on the terms of his contract. Peabody is pictured here with Kathy and Paul Hoyt.

NEW TOWN MANAGER — Robert Peabody (right) was introduced as Bridgton’s new Town Manager at the June 11 Town Meeting, pending agreement of both parties on the terms of his contract. Peabody is pictured here with Kathy and Paul Hoyt.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Robert Peabody, who served as Rockport’s Town Manager for seven years before becoming Interim Town Manager in Old Orchard Beach, has emerged as the top choice of Bridgton Selectmen to replace Mitch Berkowitz as Town Manager.

The contract has not been signed by either side, however, even though Peabody was introduced last week to Town Meeting voters by Board Chairman Doug Taft.

After recognizing Berkowitz for his eight years of service in Bridgton, Taft turned and gestured to Peabody, who was seated behind a table to the side along with other town employees.

“As the board of selectmen promised the town of Bridgton, we would have a new town manager on board by this meeting, and through his diligence and the diligence of your board, we have kept our time table,” Taft said. “At this time, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Robert Peabody, who is going to be Bridgton’s new Town Manager.”

Peabody stood as Town Meeting voters applauded. Taft then said, “We are still in the process of moving forward, we are on track, and hopefully we will have Bob on board very soon.”

In a later telephone interview, Taft said the board has drawn up a contract, but has not yet made a formal decision to hire Peabody. The contract is currently being reviewed by Town Attorney Richard Spencer.

“Maybe I used a bad choice of words the other night” during Town Meeting, said Taft. “We haven’t crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s.”

Peabody, as well, was reticent when asked for an interview on Friday. “Without a signed contract in hand, it would be premature for me to comment,” he said. But he added, “It’s fair to say we have a handshake agreement,” and said he was looking forward to coming to Bridgton.

Peabody was chosen from among 10 candidates who were culled from 40 applications by a search committee formed shortly after Berkowitz announced his retirement in January. Selectmen spent over a month coming to a decision, and met in executive session numerous times in the weeks prior to their self-imposed June 10 deadline for making their choice.

No date has been set for Peabody’s formal hiring or when he would begin the Bridgton job. Berkowitz will begin taking accrued vacation time July 1, coming in one or two days a week, and plans a period of overlap working with the new town manager to provide a seamless transition. His last day will be Oct. 2.

Taft said Peabody was the strongest candidate for the job. “We felt he had the fit that would be good for the town of Bridgton, in the process of us continuing going forward.”

Peabody currently lives in Rockland, and served three terms on the Rockland City Council as well as three terms as mayor. He became Rockport’s Town Manager in March 2004. Peabody served nine years in Rockport before being placed on administrative leave in January of 2013, after a personnel complaint was filed by two department heads. He resigned two weeks later. Peabody received a $52,836 severance package that did not mention the reason for his departure.

Peabody was hired in March 2013 to serve as Interim Town Manager in Old Orchard Beach following the firing of its town manager. He served six months in that position, during which six of seven town councilors were ousted in a recall election.

Taft said Bridgton Selectmen are aware that Peabody had been placed on leave in Rockport. He declined to comment further, saying it was a personnel issue. Taft said he hopes Bridgton residents will understand that such matters are confidential by nature and will trust that selectmen made the best choice for Bridgton.

“I’m sure there’s something in everyone’s past that can be misquoted or misconstrued,” said Taft. “Because you know something, there’s a quote by a great man, that he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Peabody’s professional experience in municipal government is extensive. He began his career as an appraiser and assessor before starting his own business, Mid-Coast Appraisals of Rockland. He then became owner of Peabody & King of Rockland, an upper-end retail business, from 1996 to 2000, before becoming Town Administrator in Hope, Maine, from 2001 to 2004. He served as Executive Director of Mid-Coast Solid Waste Corporation in Rockport from 2002 to 2004 before being hired in Rockport.

Peabody grew up in Bath and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Maine at Orono. He is a certified Community Development Block Grant Program Administrator and served on the Eastern Maine Development Corporation Board of Directors for seven years. He served on the Municipal Review Committee Board of Directors, the Solid Waste Management Advisory Council, the CDBG Micro-Loan Committee, the Regional Water Advisory Committee and Rockland Library Advisory Board.

 

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