PORTLAND – Maine’s largest city, especially its waterfront and arts district, impressed Mark Rees when he took a tour last week before interviewing with councilors for the job of city manager.

City officials were equally impressed with Rees, especially his enthusiasm and confident manner. On Friday, they announced the job was his.

“He interviews really well,” said Councilor Cheryl Leeman, who headed up the council’s search committee.

Rees will come to Portland from North Andover, Mass., where he has been town manager for more than 10 years. His contract in North Andover calls for 90 days notice when he’s leaving; both he and the council said they expect him to be on the job in Portland within three months.

The other finalists for the job were acting City Manager Pat Finnigan and Framingham, Mass., City Manager Julian Suso.

Rees replaces former City Manager Joe Gray, who retired in February. Rees will earn $143,000 a year, compared to the $121,000 paid to Gray and to Finnigan while she filled in.

Rees will be the first city manager to have a contract with the city. Details are still being worked out, but Leeman said the term will be for two or three years.

The council is expected to formally appoint Rees to the job and to approve his contract at its June 6 meeting.

Leeman said the city has never had a contract with its city manager before, but the council thought it should have one.

Rees said he was impressed by the city during his visit and isn’t concerned about managing a larger government. North Andover’s budget for municipal operations — excluding schools — is about $20 million, and Portland’s budget is 10 times larger.

“The principles are the same,” said Rees, who said his strengths are capital budget planning, infrastructure maintenance and long-range financial forecasting.

Rees served as the chief financial officer in Framingham for nearly four years before taking the job in North Andover, giving him a strong background in government financial management.

Rees said he’s not concerned about any changes that may come after November, when the city will have a popularly elected mayor for the first time in decades.

The mayor is currently one of the nine councilors and is selected by the council for the largely ceremonial, part-time role.

The elected mayor will have a full-time job for a four-year term and, it’s presumed, will work more closely with the city manager than the current mayor and councilors.

Rees said he’s used to stepping into roles that have elements of change or uncertainty.

In his first job after college, he was the first director of a purchasing and central services division for a county in North Carolina; he was the first town administrator in Ashburnham, Mass.; he was the first town manager in Northbridge, Mass.; and he was the first CFO in Framingham.

“I’m used to transitions from one form of government to another,” he said.

Rees said North Andover has its annual town meeting early next month and he plans to ask for a waiver of the 90-day notice after that.

Once he gets up here, Rees said, he will focus on getting out in the community, meeting residents and getting a sense of the council’s priorities.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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