Portland City Manager Mark Rees submits resignation

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PORTLAND — Citing a desire to pursue other professional and personal opportunities, City Manager Mark Rees on Monday announced he will resign effective Sept. 3.

An interim manager will be named at the City Council meeting that night, City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said in a news release. The search for a permanent replacement for Rees will begin immediately, she added.

Rees’ resignation letter was short on explanations and long on listing achievements during his three-year tenure, among them creation of a five-year capital improvement program, something he had also established when he was chief financial officer in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Councilor Ed Suslovic agreed Tuesday the capital improvement program was notable.

“I think one thing that was very helpful was Mark tightened up the capital improvement process. He codified it and tried to make it more objective. It took a little bit of the politics out of it,” Suslovic said.

Rees’s job performance was evaluated Aug. 4 in a City Council executive session. His resignation did not surprise Suslovic.

“I think Mark had expressed some interest in exploring other opportunities, I think he thought it was a good time to move on,” the councilor said.

Other achievements Rees outlined in his letter included a 9.3 percent reduction in violent and major property crimes, reorganizing the Fire Department to improve “emergency response capability,” and improving case management and developing permanent housing for homeless people.

Rees praised Deputy City Manager Sheila Hill-Christian and city department heads for making the accomplishments possible, but Suslovic said Rees and Mayor Michael Brennan, the city’s first popularly elected mayor in nearly a century, were also successful in navigating uncharted waters together.

“I give them a lot of credit because they both came in brand new, post-charter revision,” Suslovic said.

The City Charter amendment creating the full-time, popularly elected mayor also created questions about setting agendas and moving the city forward, Suslovic said.

“The two of them had to figure out a way to make this work, at times it was challenging for everyone involved,” he said.

Rees also thanked Brennan and city councilors for their collaborations.

“Working for the City of Portland has been both a privilege and a pleasure,” he said.

Rees replaced Joseph Gray in May 2011. He came to the city from North Andover, Massachusetts, where he had been town manager for 11 years.

He signed a three-year contract when he was hired; the City Council added another year in April.

After several years of relative stability in city departments, Rees’s resignation is the third this year by a municipal administrator.

Health and Human Services Director Doug Gardner left for a private-sector job in June. City Finance Director Ellen Sanborn this month was appointed chief financial officer for the School Department.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Mark Rees

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.