Bath public works director gets interim manager job

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BATH — Peter Owen, the city’s public works director since 1999, will serve as interim city manager until a permanent replacement for retiring City Manager Bill Giroux can be found.

Owen will retire after the city chooses a new permanent manager, he said. 

The City Council on Wednesday unanimously appointed Owen as interim manager, and also named Deputy Public Works Director Lee Leiner – hired in 1998 – to move up to department director.

Both appointments are effective Friday, July 7.

The interim position is “going to buy us peace of mind and some time to not feel rushed to find the next city manager,” council Chairwoman Mari Eosco said.

Owen, a Brunswick resident, said in an interview Wednesday that he had his own “flight path for retirement in the next couple of years.”

When Giroux and the City Council approached him about taking the interim job, Owen said, “I didn’t like the idea of stepping up for city manager and disrupting all the people at public works just to come back in a number of months. I’d rather take the role for a longer period of time, and when they hire the new city manager … I’ll retire at that point.”

There are various projects Owen said he would like to see completed by then, such as an upgrade to the city’s wastewater treatment plant, new cell construction at the landfill, various street paving projects, and the Bath River Walk along the Kennebec River.

The council also presented Giroux with a key to the city and a proclamation recognizing his service, which began in March 2006 after six years managing Bowdoinham. The Bath resident has said he plans to take some time off and travel before deciding what he’ll do next.

Owen has served as acting manager when Giroux was out, the departing manager said Wednesday.

“Peter’s been here a long time; he’s solid,” Giroux said, noting that having him in the interim role allows city councilors to “take their time and do a thorough search.”

Leiner has been ready for a while to take on his department’s lead role, Giroux said, adding that he could easily be a public works director anywhere else in the state. “We’re fortunate that he stayed,” Giroux said.

Leiner said he is “very excited” about his new role. “I have a whole career behind me that hopefully is leading up to a nice pinnacle here,” he said. “I’m very excited to continue to serve the residents of Bath.

“When you’re in the infrastructure business, the job is never done,” he added. “There’s always a lot to do, and it’s good to have a career (in which) you’re always looking for new and exciting things, and there they are right in front of you.”

Chris Wallace, superintendent of the treatment plant, will replace Leiner as deputy public works director, while Brian Leavitt – chief operator at the treatment plant – will take Wallace’s place, Owen said.

“All of these people are very qualified,” he noted. “My management style has been to always share what’s going on with the other managers or supervisors. So they’ve all been familiar with the issues.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Bath Public Works Director Peter Owen, left, will become interim city manager after the July 7 retirement of Bill Giroux. Deputy Public Works Director Lee Leiner, right, will take Owen’s place as department head.

Retiring Bath City Manager Bill Giroux on Wednesday received a proclamation and key to the city from City Council Chairwoman Mari Eosco.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.