PORTLAND — A City Council committee set up to find finalists for the city manager’s post has narrowed a list of 65 applicants to three, including the current acting manager.

The finalists are Pat Finnigan, the acting city manager; Julian Suso, town manager of Framingham, Mass.; and Mark Rees, the manager of North Andover, Mass.

Cheryl Leeman, the councilor chairing the search committee, said a fourth finalist dropped out after being told the city intended to stick to its plan to disclose the names of the finalists.

Leeman said the city received applications from all over the country. The vacancy was created when Joe Gray retired in February after 10 years in the post.

Finnigan has been with the city for four years, all as assistant city manager before becoming acting city manager after Gray’s retirement. Before coming to Portland, she was assistant city manager and then manager in Auburn for a total of 16 years. She cited an economic development plan that helped improve the city’s finances and lifted Auburn’s bond rating as a key achievement of her time there.

Rees was the chief financial officer for Framingham, Mass., before becoming city manager in North Andover, which has a population of 30,000. He also has worked in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Rees said a highlight of his career was the way the community of North Andover came together to recover from a major flood in 2006.

Suso has been a city and town manager in Ohio and Massachusetts. He cited a number of achievements in Framingham (population 68,000), including the renovation of historic downtown buildings and efforts to improve the city’s bond rating and its energy efficiency.

Leeman said the candidates will be taken on a tour of the city Friday before councilors meet them in one-on-one interviews the same day. Each candidate will be interviewed by the full council on Saturday. She said the council may meet to try to reach a consensus on their pick Saturday afternoon.

The public will also get a chance to judge the three during a reception Friday night in the State of Maine room at City Hall from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Sometime between this weekend and the June 6 council meeting, Leeman said, the council will add an order to the agenda indicating who they want to hire as city manager.

Monday night, the council approved a $201 million municipal budget. Combined with the $89.6 million school budget approved by voters last week, Portland’s taxes for the next budget year will rise 2 percent to $18.28 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The council spent little time talking about the budget before passing all 15 orders needed to put it into place by identical 9-0 votes. Several councilors said the budget had been thoroughly studied by the council’s Finance Committee, negating the need for questioning and debate Monday.

The council also approved an outdoor dining license for Flask, a bar on Spring Street that neighbors had complained about during a council meeting earlier this month.

The neighbors said the bar was too noisy and the owner was not responsive to their complaints, but police made several unannounced checks with a decibel meter in the past two weeks and said they never got a reading that exceeded city noise standards.

The owner also said she would investigate soundproofing measures.

One measure hinting of controversy was a resolution by Councilor Dory Waxman honoring public employees and supporting their rights to unionize.

Councilor Edward Suslovic said he supported the sentiment behind the measure, but he has a policy against voting for resolutions that don’t directly affect city operations.

Leeman said she, too, has that policy and that she was concerned that an unstated political message was being sent concerning issues such as Gov. Paul LePage’s removal of what he said was a pro-labor mural at the Maine Department of Labor.

“This has an undertone to it that just doesn’t set well with me,” Leeman said.

Other councilors, however, said that sometimes the council should take a stand on issues that are important, even if there may not be a direct link to city operations.

The resolution passed 7-2.


Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: [email protected]