SOUTH PORTLAND — After being employed by the city for more than a quarter of a century, City Manager Jim Gailey resigned Wednesday for a lower-paying job with the county.
Gailey said he will leave his $123,000-a-year post in late July to become assistant county manager for Cumberland County, where his annual salary will be $106,000.
His departure will end a 30-year career with the city that began when Gailey was a referee for recreational soccer games as a high school student. He has been city manager for the last nine years.
“A lot has changed since the fall of 1986, and the experiences and opportunities that I have had working in six departments along the way are amazing,” he wrote in a June 8 resignation letter to Mayor Tom Blake.
Gailey told Blake it’s time to “explore other opportunities and career goals.”
Blake scheduled a 5 p.m. City Council executive session on Monday, June 13, to discuss the process to find Gailey’s replacement. It is likely that Assistant City Manager Josh Reny will act as interim city manager after Gailey’s departure, Blake said.
In an interview Thursday morning, Gailey said the position of assistant county manager appeals to him because he will have a more direct role over a broader area.
As municipal positions are increasingly harder to fill because of a lack of applicants, and as local resources dwindle, Gailey said he believes county government will be more involved on both the local and regional levels.
“I want to get in on the ground floor,” he said.
Cumberland County Manager Peter Crichton said he is “really looking forward to having (Jim) join our team.”
Gailey’s departure was unexpected to Blake and other city councilors, but wasn’t entirely surprising.
“I think it’s been a rough year for him,” Councilor Claude Morgan said Wednesday. Councilor Maxine Beecher agreed, and said Gailey has had a “year from hell.”
Councilors referred to several long-term issues, including the dispute over liquefied petroleum gas storage at Rigby Rail Yard, and the continuing litigation in response to the Clear Skies Ordinance, the debate over which dates back to 2014.
In addition, Gailey has had to deal with negative public perception of the council, following a series of conflicts, including a councilor being accused of cronyism, and another councilor’s use of his private email to conduct city business.
Regardless of the strain, Gailey was praised by councilors for his devotion and passion for the job.
“His performance has been stellar,” Morgan said. “I have personally hoped that Jim would recognize how impressive he is and how much of an asset he is. … He is certainly capable of managing far bigger, more illustrious communities. His institutional knowledge of the city and its workings are going to be very difficult to fill.”