'I'm still a South Portlander': The Gailey era comes to an end

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SOUTH PORTLAND — On July 15 – his last day in City Hall – City Manager Jim Gailey walked into his office to find a life-size cutout of Elvis Presley in his desk chair with a sticky note that read, “Elvis has left the building.”

It’s well-known in the building that Gailey doesn’t care for Presley’s music, but his employees wanted to wish him bon voyage with one last, heartfelt gag. 

In June, after nine years in the position and nearly 30 working in various departments for the city – including as a referee for recreational soccer in high school – Gailey announced his resignation.

During Gailey’s last City Council meeting July 6, Finance Director Greg L’Heureux, speaking on behalf of his fellow department heads, said, “Jim has built an excellent team here in South Portland, (and he) has maintained a personal, almost family feel among city staff.”

His departure, L’Heureux said, “will leave an enormous void for the city.”

Councilor Maxine Beecher in June called Gailey the “backbone of the city,” and Mayor Tom Blake said Gailey’s knowledge of the city and passion for the job is “unparalleled and unmatched.”

Throughout the day last Friday, city employees stopped by Gailey’s office to thank him for his time and to wish him well at his new position as assistant manager for Cumberland County. He’ll start that job July 26, after using up some accrued vacation time in South Portland this week.

As he walked down the hall after speaking with Gailey, Director of Human Resources Don Brewer pointed to Gailey’s office and said “It’s going to be difficult to find a better guy than that one right there.”

While he has seen a lot during his tenure with the city, Gailey said two projects he’s going to miss seeing to completion are the new municipal services facility, slated to be finished next year on Highland Avenue, and continued additions to the Greenbelt Walkway across the city. 

Gailey has spearheaded the trail-building on much of the Greenbelt since the 1990s. The trail system now meanders for more than 5 1/2 miles from Bug Light Park to the Wainwright Sports Complex. 

Although he will be joining the workforce across the Casco Bay Bridge in Portland, “I’m still a South Portlander,” he said. 

Sitting back in his chair, looking around his office at the blank walls and boxed-up belongings, he said, “It’s been quite a ride. It really has.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

Former South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey, in the council chambers at City Hall.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.