SOUTH PORTLAND — A public forum on the upcoming city manager search drew few speakers Wednesday evening, but it provided additional fodder for city councilors to consider as they prepare to fill the top municipal position.

The forum, held in the council chamber at City Hall, lasted about a half-hour and was moderated by Don Gerrish, a former city manager who works with the Eaton Peabody Consulting Group in Augusta. Gerrish is facilitating the search and serving as interim city manager.

The city is about to launch a national search to replace Jim Gailey, who worked for the city for decades and served as city manager since 2007. Gailey resigned in July to become assistant manager of Cumberland County.

Gerrish hosted the forum to learn what community members believe are the major challenges facing the city and what qualifications they think a new city manger should have.

Russ Lunt, a regular at council meetings, was one of four residents who spoke. Lunt said the city manager should have a lot of municipal experience, a deep interest in promoting the city and an ability to work well with the council.

“I would like to see a strong city manager that would unify the council,” Lunt said, alluding to strained relations that have cropped up among councilors in recent months.

Lunt said he expects the city manager to value transparency on municipal matters, including the pending lawsuit with the Portland Pipe Line Corp. “Keep things out in the open,” he said.

Patricia Whyte, another meeting regular, said the city manager should be “up to date” on environmental issues facing the city and understand the need to attract businesses that care about the health and welfare of its citizens.

Whyte said the city manager should live in South Portland and if he or she has children, they should attend the city’s schools.

“I would like a city manager who can think outside the box,” she said, as well as be a “people person” who is adept with technology.

Rosemarie De Angelis, a former city councilor, said she hopes the city manager search attracts diverse candidates, including women. She noted that only one municipal department head is a woman, City Clerk Emily Carrington.

“It’s not just (white) men who can do this job,” she said.

De Angelis indicated she was disappointed with the interview team, which will be the City Council, saying that it should include citizens and department heads.

The city manager should have a vision for where the city is heading and be accessible to the council and community, De Angelis said. At the same time, the city manager must be strong and confident enough to set boundaries and limits, so the council doesn’t become a “seven-headed monster” that’s prone to “micromanage” city operations, she said.

Sue Henderson said the city manager should be familiar with the comprehensive plan, which sets broad and long-range goals for development across the city.

Gerrish noted that his firm has already begun gathering input for the city manager search from citizens, department heads and other city employees.

In addition to concerns raised at the forum, Gerrish said people have indicated that they want a city manager who is professional, friendly and has integrity, along with a proven track record in municipal government and a strong financial background.

People have also noted the need to address the city’s aging population and lack of affordable housing, and to continue ongoing efforts to grow the tax base and promote communication among city departments, including the school department.

Gerrish said his firm has assisted in about 25 city manager searches, from Kittery to Auburn to Castine, and held public forums for about half of them. Some have drawn a handful of people. Others have attracted 50 to 60.

“You never know who’s gonna come,” Gerrish said.

Gerrish said he expects the South Portland position to draw about 35 applications, including women. “We are seeing more women applicants today,” he said.

Gerrish’s firm will review the applications and forward them to the council, recommending about eight to be interviewed. The council will choose two finalists to meet with the community on separate dates. The council is expected to announce a new city manager by mid-November.

Anyone who was unable to attend Wednesday’s forum may email comments to [email protected]