Towns face shallow manager candidate pool

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

REGION — Some people end up volunteering or working part-time after retirement.

It seems such a work arrangement can be beneficial to both retiree and the company or the agency doing the hiring.

In the case of government, there is a job-networking service that provides the resumes of people willing to serve as interim town managers, typically someone retired from a town management position.

Across the State of Maine, a handful of town managers came of retirement age or resigned during the same time period — leaving a bit of a candidate shortage.

The networking service is provided by Maine Town City and Country Management Association (MTCMA). It was started in 2016.

A year later, this municipal job bank has proven fruitful.

Burt Kendall, who served as Denmark’s first town manager from 2006 to 2008, was sworn in as interim town manager of Denmark on Tuesday. His contract goes from Dec. 5 to June 2, which will allow him to attend the annual town meeting, he said.

MTCMA “is not a union, but a trade association. We look out for the professional interest of managers,” according to Kendall, who serves as MTCMA senior advisor.

“The association has 240 members including Bridgton, Fryeburg and Denmark, Naples,” he said.

The job banked started after Dave Barrett, with Maine Municipal Association, mentioned something like that was needed.

DENMARK: It came in handy when the Town of Denmark needed a town manager to fill in while the elected officials decided what to do.

When the Denmark Board of Selectmen “needed an interim they didn’t know where to find one,” Kendall said.

The town turned to the system that stores the resumes of potential interims, he said.

“I was called by the selectmen. I knew Chris [Loughlin] was going to leave, but I had no clue what they were doing.

I was interviewed and I start today,” Kendall said.

Prior to Loughlin’s start date as town manager, the position remained vacant for about six months.

“In the meanwhile, the Town of Denmark will do a charter study,” Kendall said.

The Denmark “Charter Study Committee has been elected. There are about seven or eight members. The chairman is one of the selectmen. The charge is to examine the town charter and come up with a recommendation, regarding a town manager,” he said.

“They wanted me to stay until the town meeting and also if I can offer assistance to the charter study,” he said.

For Kendall, the job is an opportunity to stay employed but only part-time and for the next six month. For Denmark selectmen and residents, the interim solution gives them time to examine how a town manager can best serve the community by looking at the town charter.

NAPLES: In the Town of Naples, Interim Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz has been hired only until such time as the full-time position if filled, according to Naples Chairman Jim Grattelo.

Grattelo said the board of selectmen did not use the job bank, but landed on the idea of approaching Berkowitz, who had retired as Bridgton’s town manager and also served in the capacity of an interim.

He hopes the new town manager will be announced in the foreseeable future, before the holidays are over.

“We’ve conducted all our interviews; and we will set up second interviews for the week after next. The week of Dec. 18, the selectmen will hold the second interviews,” Grattelo said.

“Meanwhile, we will formulate a plan of what we want the new town manager to do. We are working on a comprehensive, five-year plan for the Town of Naples,” he said.

“The first round was to narrow it down. Now, we are going to get specific where we are going to see Naples in the next five years so we can find the right person to get us there,” he said.

“The second interviews will be in executive session. If we have a second interview, we need to be prepared to offer a package.

I believe we will be in a position to make an offer before the end of the year,” Grattelo said.

As interims, both Berkowitz and Kendall are holding part-time jobs.

Kendall said his hours are Tuesday through Thursday. The schedule is somewhat flexible and he must be available to attend selectmen’s meetings on Tuesday nights.

Kendall explained the events that led up to his part-time work lifestyle.

“I decided to go back to work after retiring. After first, I started doing volunteer work,” he said. Next, he decided it might be better to get paid for his skills.

“I have a second family. I saved some for college, and my younger son wants to go to engineering school, which is expensive,” he said.

“I was an interim in Waldoboro, largest town in Lincoln County,” he said, stressing how much he enjoyed that job experience and the best selling points of the town. “I was there. Then, I became a private citizen. I spent the summers in Lovell, my summer house for the past 60 years,”

“It is a pleasure to be back in Denmark. I didn’t think I would return,” Kendall said.

HARRISON: Selectmen continue to search for a successor for George "Bud" Finch, who announced his plans to retire by the end of the year. Finch initially took the job as an interim, but stayed on and has been manager for the past seven years.

At a recent selectmen's meeting, Finch agreed to continue to serve as manager on a month-to-month, as needed basis. Selectmen, meanwhile, hope to complete the search process — interviews, selection and start date — some time in January. The application process has been open with selectmen not setting a deadline for potential candidates to submit resumes.

" Like other communities, applications have been slow to come in and not as many compared to what it used to be like with 50 or more," Finch said. "Also, the time of year makes it difficult for people."

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