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Brunswick picks 2 finalists for town manager job

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Brunswick picks 2 finalists for town manager job

BRUNSWICK — The town's interim manager and an Aroostook County city manager are the two finalists for the job of Brunswick town manager. 

In a statement released Tuesday morning, Town Council Chairman Benet Pols identified John Eldridge, Brunswick's long-time finance director, and James A. Bennett, Presque Isle's city manager, as the final candidates.

Only hours after Pols released the information, Bennett issued his own press release, expressing his excitement at the opportunity to work in Brunswick.

"Brunswick is a wonderful community that my family and I know well," Bennett said. 

Since 1986, Bennett has managed towns and cities all over western and southern Maine, from Dixfield to Old Orchard Beach. His last position, before moving to Presque Isle, was as city administrator in Lewiston, where he worked from 2002-2009. 

He has been Presque Isle's city manager since 2010. 

Bennett said the job in Brunswick would give his wife and him a chance to move back to their home towns: Brunswick and Lisbon. 

"While we have grown to appreciate how special each of those communities are, we have reached that point in our lives where we strongly desire to return home," he said.

In his statement, Bennett said he hoped Presque Isle community members would see his desire to move closer to his home town "as the same dream they have for their family members that have moved away."

"I have not applied for any other jobs and do not have any immediate plans to seek any positions in the foreseeable future," Bennett said. 

In a interview Tuesday afternoon, Bennett said Brunswick offers an excellent professional opportunity, beyond his own connections to the area.

He would not otherwise have applied for the position, he said, adding that he had not applied in Lisbon when it recently conducted a town manager search. 

"If my motive was just to come home, I would have applied in my own home town," Bennett said. "I'm looking for a community that is a place we want to live and be a part of, but also one that I feel like is going to be an excellent professional opportunity."

His decision to release a public statement was motivated by the number of phone calls he received from the media after his candidacy was announced by Pols, not an attempt to campaign for the job, Bennett said. 

Eldridge on Tuesday said he, too, is pleased to be a finalist for the position.

"I appreciate the support that I've received to get this far in the process and I'm looking forward to the next step," he said. 

Eldridge has lived and worked in Brunswick since he became the town's finance director in 1988. Prior to that he was town manager of Bradley and South Berwick. 

Eldridge was appointed interim town manager in February, after a divided Town Council removed former Town Manager Gary Brown.

Brown, who became town manager in 2009, submitted his resignation in late December 2013, intending to work through March 2014. The council vote removed him from the position seven weeks early. 

In April, the council hired a consultant from the Maine Municipal Association to help guide its search for new town manager. The position was advertised in June and received almost 50 applications from across the country. 

Six candidates were chosen for interviews after a series of closed-door council meetings. 

Pols, in an interview Tuesday, said the council winnowed the pool down to three finalists, but one withdrew.

He said the council will bring both candidates into town in early September for tours, meet-and-greet opportunities with residents, and public question-and-answer sessions.

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or pmcguire@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter @mcguiremidcoast.