South Portland drops residency requirement for city manager

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SOUTH PORTLAND — After being jilted by their first choice for a new city manager, the City Council’s second search won’t include a residency requirement.

In a Monday night council workshop, councilors agreed they don’t want qualified candidates to be deterred because they live in another Maine municipality and don’t want the inconvenience of moving to South Portland. 

“Just because you don’t live in the community doesn’t mean you’re not committed to the community,” Councilor Linda Cohen said. 

Councilor Claude Morgan agreed. “I think we can dispense with this whole history,” he said, “this whole customary practice of having a manager live in a community.”

Prohibiting someone from applying simply because they live 30 miles away and don’t want to uproot their life is not necessary, Morgan added.

Councilor Eben Rose and other councilors said they would also like the new search to refer to the city’s Comprehensive Plan and what it entails. 

A revised ad and job description is expected to be published this week. In addition to other qualifications, the council is looking for a candidate with a minimum of seven years of experience in municipal management.  

Ed Collins, the council’s first choice for city manager, accepted the position two weeks ago and was in the process of negotiating his contract when he unexpectedly declined to take the job last week

In his letter released by interim City Manager Don Gerrish, Collins said, “After careful consideration of the entirety of my experiences in the selection process … (i)t is clear to me that I am not the right person for the job at this time.”

“I recognize that my decision creates some difficulty for the City Council,” Collins wrote. “I apologize for that, but I feel strongly that getting the right person on the job is more important than sticking to a strict schedule or process.”

Collins is a native of Bangor and most recently a resident of Lehi, Utah. He and his wife had recently acquired a house on Hall Street in South Portland. 

The first search took approximately three months. The city hired the Eaton Peabody firm to help conduct it, and Gerrish, one of the firm’s principals, as interim city manager.

Under terms of the contract, the Bangor-based firm will not bill the city to conduct a second search. The city will, however, have to continue to pay Gerrish $650 each day he works.

Gerrish said he will remain as acting manager until a full-time replacement is hired.

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

 

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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.