FREEPORT – The two finalists in the search for a new town manager were here on Thursday, meeting with municipal employees during the day and greeting townspeople at evening receptions.

Selected from 41 applicants, the finalists are James Doar, town manager of Bethel, and Peter Joseph Jr., town manager of Lincoln, N.H.

They’re vying to replace Dale Olmstead, who will retire in October after 30 years on the job.

Helen Clarkson and her daughter, Joyce Veilleux, were among several citizens who attended hour-long consecutive receptions for each candidate at the Freeport Community Center.

“It’s nice to have an opportunity to meet them and have some input in the selection process,” said Clarkson, 86, a third-generation resident. “It’s better to meet them in person than just read their resumes.”

“I think the Town Council did a good job of finding us two good candidates,” said Veilleux, 54. “I’m glad I don’t have to decide.”

The council will meet in executive session next Thursday to decide who gets the job and announce the winning candidate when the council meets Aug. 7, said Jim Cassida, council chairman. The council sought written feedback from everyone who attended the receptions.

The council plans to negotiate a salary comparable to town managers in similar nearby communities, which range from $85,000 to $110,000 per year, Cassida said. Olmstead’s annual salary is $120,000.

The council sought experienced municipal managers for Freeport, which has 7,991 residents and a $9.3 million municipal budget. The job advertisement described the town as a tourism and outlet-shopping center anchored by L.L. Bean, with many recreational opportunities, a small-town atmosphere and a high quality of life.

“We need somebody who can work with neighborhood concerns as well as the business community,” Roben Voigt, a resident, said after the receptions. “There needs to be a much better balance.”

Doar, 34, has been town manager of Bethel since June 2009. He took that job after leaving the town manager position in Rumford, where he had worked since 2007. Before that, the native of northern Maine worked in Florida and New York.

Bethel has 2,607 residents and a $2.1 million municipal budget. It is in the Oxford Hills region, near the New Hampshire border and several ski areas, including Sunday River in Newry and Mount Abram in Greenwood.

“We hope to be long-term members of the Freeport community,” Doar told residents at the end of his reception.

Joseph, 29, has been the town manager in Lincoln since May 2008. The Beverly, Mass., native worked previously as an assistant in the town manager’s office in Andover, Mass., and in the town administrator’s office in Peterborough, N.H.

Lincoln has 1,662 residents and a $4.4 million annual budget. Like Bethel, it also has a board of selectmen and an annual town meeting. It’s home to Loon Mountain Ski Resort and includes parts of the White Mountain National Forest, Franconia Notch State Park, the Kancamagus Highway and the Appalachian Trail.

“The (municipal) staff is great and the town is great,” Joseph said of Freeport at the end of his reception.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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