PORTLAND — Gary Wood announced today he is retiring as the city’s top lawyer – a position he has held for 21 years.

Wood’s last day will be Sept. 14. The 65-year-old is looking forward to spending more time outdoors, according to a city press release. 

Hired as corporation counsel in 1991, Wood said his most memorable moment as city attorney came in 1992 when the city passed a local ordinance banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. That effort led to a similar statewide ban.

“The sense of impending freedom permeated the audience and the council,” Wood said in the press release. “After the vote, there was a palpable lifting of the spirit throughout the city that has remained today.”

More recently, Wood worked with city staff to balance public safety with the First Amendment rights of Occupy Maine protesters, who set up an encampment in Lincoln Park.

Mayor Michael Brennan in a written statement complimented Wood’s distinguished career in Portland.

When contacted by phone, Brennan said he would establish a committee of councilors to find a replacement.

“We will definitely do a national search,” Brennan said.

Wood’s current salary is $96,600, according to City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg.

The announcement completes the turnover of City Hall officials who serve at the pleasure of the City Council, which employs the city attorney, manager and clerk.

Joe Gray retired as city manager last year after being with the city for 40 years, and Linda Cohen stepped down as city clerk after serving for 10 years.

Other top city officials who have left in recent years include Fred LaMontagne, who retired as fire chief after 27 years with the city, including 10 as chief. The city is still seeking a replacement for him.

The city also recently replaced its director of planning development and its police chief.

Brennan said the departures of long-serving officials creates an opportunity to change the direction of the city.

“I think this is an extraordinary opportunity for the city to find new leadership and to define a new direction on how we run and manage the city,” he said.

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