FARMINGTON — About 16 residents gathered at the Community Center on Middle Street on Thursday night to provide feedback as to what they would like to see in Farmington’s future town manager.
Town Manager Richard Davis announced to the Select Board in February that he would retire Aug. 27, after 20 years of service.
Don Gerrish of Eaton Peabody Law Firm will provide consultation to the Select Board throughout the hiring process and hosted the community meeting Thursday. He asked residents to respond to two questions:
• What do you see are the issues facing Farmington in the next five years?
• What would you like to see in the new town manager?”
Center for Entrepreneurial Studies founder Bonita Lehigh identified drug-abuse as a current and future problem for Farmington.
“I think we’ve got a huge problem in our community when it comes to addiction,” she said. “I think that that is an issue that really needs to be taken seriously and we need to support law enforcement in that plight.”
She also spoke to the lack of resources for homeless youth and the lack of opportunities in the area for young people.
“The new town manager recognizes that youth is what’s going to keep this community vital and vitalized. The options for these kids are pretty much fast food, retail, or clipping weed and it’s not very attractive honestly because kids want more than that. So I think that’s something that really needs to be looked at hard,” she said.
Several residents said they desired the future town manager to prioritize resources for homeless youth and establish a homeless shelter.
Erica Emery of Rustic Roots Farm said wanted the new manager to show passion for causes and to foster a plan for the community.
“I think one thing that Farmington as a whole could be better at that I don’t think we have really is a vision for our town and a unifying way we organize or rally ourselves,” Emery said.
Business owners said they wanted a town manager who listens to downtown issues, will get out of the office and visit downtown businesses and participate in local events.
Residents expressed personal traits they hope to see in the future manager, such as an inclusive approach to gathering perspectives and a sense of humanity when it comes to developing resources and solving problems. They also want the manager to have a track record of executing initiatives, someone who has proven results from past experiences.
Judy Murphy of Mixed Up Kitchen Supply Store described the personality and traits that she hopes to see in the new manager.
“Someone with both communication and listening skills and a nonreactive personality, stable in temperament,” Murphy said. “So I see him as having worked well with his staff, the department heads, board members and most of all with the community.”
Buzz Davis, who has lived in Farmington for 30 years, emphasized the need to prioritize infrastructure such as water lines, and wants the new manager to have a savviness for utilizing federal funds.
“I think that under the current circumstances with what’s happening nationally with all of the stimulus funds and everything else coming out for infrastructure and development, it’s important that our town manager is skilled at accessing these programs and familiar with public development financing; and all of the resources that will be coming out through these bills that are being decided in Washington down, and really hit the ground on that so we can get the resources we need for our aging infrastructure in this town,” Davis said.
A resident asked if the advertised salary for the position was comparable to other communities.
Gerrish said the advertised $85,000 to $100,000 range was on the lower end, comparatively.
“I told them [Select Board] and I was upfront, you’re probably looking at the higher range of that to hire somebody with some experience, who is good, that can do the job,” Gerrish said.
Another resident asked if the manager is required to reside in Farmington.
Gerrish said it’s desired but not mandatory.
The deadline for applications is May 25 and Gerrish will be updating the board weekly on the number. As of May 13, the town has six out-of-state applicants, according to Gerrish.
The position is advertised within the state on the town’s website, the Maine Municipal Association, Maine JobLink and nationwide on the International City/County Management Association.
Gerrish will present all candidate resumes and his recommendations to the Select Board on June 2. The first round of interviews will take place June 7 to 10. The board will select two to three finalists, who will receive full background checks, and select a new manager by early July.
“The goal right now is to have a manager named by the week of July 5 through to the 8,” Gerrish said. “Now, even when you name a manager, if you hire somebody who is already in a position, they usually have to give at least 30 days if not 45 days notice where they’re working. And so your manager is retiring late August so this will work, this timeline works pretty good into that process.”