Cape Council gears up for manager search

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council has finalized the ad they will use to help find a new town manager.

Councilors met on Tuesday with the Augusta-based consulting group Eaton Peabody that has been hired to facilitate the search. The goal is to name a new town manager by Jan. 17.

Town Manager Mike McGovern announced Aug. 22 that he will retire Dec. 31, after 31 years in the position. 

Consultants Dick Metivier and Don Gerrish, who is also South Portland’s interim city manager and the leader of the city’s search for a new manager, drafted an advertisement looking for McGovern’s replacement. After some discussion, councilors approved the ad.

Much of the discussion focused on whether the next town manager should be a Cape Elizabeth resident. Councilors decided to note in the ad that residency is not mandatory, but is preferred.

“If they choose to live here, that’s gravy to me, but it won’t be a deciding factor,” Councilor Jamie Garvin said.

Councilors said if the chosen candidate doesn’t live in Cape Elizabeth, though, they would like to set a geographical limit for how far away the person can live.

The ad says the next town manager must have at least seven years of municipal, government, or nonprofit experience.

“In all the materials we saw, there was a big emphasis on municipal experience,” Gerrish said, referring to feedback from town staff and residents.

Eaton Peabody has spent the last few weeks gathering feedback on what people want to see in a new town manager. According to Gerrish, all 12 town department heads had input, along with three of the seven councilors. Only five residents attended an Oct. 19 public input session.

Gerrish said town staff and department heads are wary of hiring a new town leader.

“I think there’s some concern from staff because they’ve worked with this town manager for 31 years, but that’s something we see a lot,” he said. “People are concerned with change.”

In Eaton Peabody’s feedback report, an unnamed town department head said they want “another Mike McGovern.” Other desired skills and traits include strong leadership and listening skills, fiscal responsibility, a desire to be an active member of the community, and the ability to understand “the dynamics of Cape Elizabeth.”

Town staff and councilors also said they want a new town manager who is someone they can relate, approachable, and has a sense of humor.

Gerrish said the ad would be posted on the town website, on the Maine Municipal Association website, on the International City/County Management Association website, and on New Hampshire and Massachusetts municipal job sites.

The deadline to apply is Nov. 18. Gerrish said he expects there will be at least 50 applications submitted for the position. Once applications are in, Eaton Peabody will select the most qualified candidates and send their applications to councilors for review. Councilors plan to meet Nov. 29 to discuss the candidates.

Gerrish said towns usually select at least six candidates for the first round of interviews, which are expected to take place Dec. 12-15.

The second round of interviews for two finalists will be held Jan. 3-5. In addition to interviews, the finalists will meet with department heads and residents.

The council is expected to name the new town manager on Jan. 17, but Gerrish warned councilors that most candidates will need a few weeks before they can start in the position.

“You won’t have a candidate here before Mike leaves,” Gerrish said to councilors. “You need to determine if you want an interim, and we can help with that.”

The councilors on Tuesday did not discuss whether they want to hire an interim town manager after McGovern leaves.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.