WESTBROOK – William Baker, the former Westbrook police chief, will lead the city’s economic development efforts.

City Administrator Jerre Bryant, announcing the decision Wednesday, cited Baker’s “skills and training in the areas of law, community issues, grantsmanship, public policy and municipal management” as factors in his selection. Baker fills a position vacated by Keith Luke in December 2011.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to come back to the city,” said Baker, 57, who was police chief from 2007-2011.

City Council approval is not needed for the job, which Baker anticipates starting Aug. 13. Baker will report to Bryant. He will draw a salary of $97,603, plus benefits, Bryant said.

A job description provided by the city includes duties similar to the community and economic development coordinator position held by Luke. The most notable difference is that Baker will be required to provide “general and specialized support, management and oversight of municipal departments … as directed by the Mayor and/or City Administrator.”

When Luke resigned, Bryant said, the position’s responsibilities were re-tooled with what he called “some minor adjustments” to the job description.

In February, Bryant said, the city posted the position and interviewed 40 candidates, but found none of them met their needs, so the city changed the description again, “adding some general management responsibilities and re-emphasizing the marketing, communications and relationship-building components of the job.”

The new position, now labeled “director of business and community relations/assistant city manager,” was re-posted in June, and 24 applicants, including Baker, applied. Bryant said officials selected Baker through a two-round interview process.

Westbrook City Councilor Mike Sanphy, himself a retired Westbrook police officer, said he was involved in the search for the new assistant manager, and was pleased to see Baker selected. Even when chief, Sanphy said, Baker was a “people person,” always making time to work the streets and interact with the public.

“That’s what you need in an economic development director,” Sanphy said. “I think he’s going to do a good job there.”

Fellow Councilor John O’Hara, who was not involved in the selection process, said he was surprised by the decision, but looked forward to working with Baker in the future.

“It will be a pleasant surprise for the community,” he said. “Bill is a man of many talents, and he’s built up a rapport with us in the community.”

Mayor Colleen Hilton could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Baker, who lives in Falmouth, is a 36-year law enforcement veteran. While chief, he was known as a high-profile, boots-on-the-ground administrator, often taking direct charge of police activity in the city, including car and foot chases. He was also known for high-profile activities such as riding a kayak over the falls of the Presumpscot River.

He retired from the Westbrook job to take a position with the FBI as an instructor to help prevent police deaths in the line of duty. Baker said the FBI eliminated the consulting position just before the June job posting, and deciding to apply was an easy decision for him.

“I was very happy in Westbrook,” he said.

Baker acknowledged that he could have sought another job as police chief somewhere, but his style of police department management typically led him to spend far more hours on the job than he needed to, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to go back to another police administration job.

“I could not sustain that pace or that style of police chief for much longer,” he said.

But he’s still not out of police work. Even now, Baker still holds a job as a part-time officer in Falmouth, and will likely do the odd night or weekend shift there while working in Westbrook.

“That part of me is not going away,” he said.

Originally from Southborough, Mass., Baker began his career in law enforcement in Cumberland in October 1974. His first job as a police chief was in 1981 in Southborough. He has also served as a police chief in Laconia and Seabrook, N.H.

Since 1981, Baker said, “I’ve always been a leader of the organizations that I’ve run.”

Along with his local-level police work, Baker has worked as the assistant director of International Police Training for the U.S. Department of Justice, and also worked as chief of the Rule of Law Division of the Emergence Group, a Washington, D.C.-based law enforcement consulting firm.

While working for the Emergence Group, Baker was a patrol officer with the Biddeford Police Department, traveling to D.C. when needed and heading to overseas assignments from Maine.

His work for the Department of Justice and as a consultant has sent him to Ukraine to address police corruption, to Egypt to work on leadership in the police force and to Latin American countries to work on relations between police and the communities.

Despite his law enforcement background, Baker insisted he is not a “one-dimensional guy,” and noted he served as selectman in Southborough from 1989-1991. He also holds a law degree from the New England School of Law and still holds a law license in Massachusetts. That background, he said, will serve him well, even in a position that is more about community relations than about law enforcement.

“It’s all stuff that I’ve done,” he said. “It’s all stuff that I like to do.”

The reaction to Baker’s appointment was mixed around the city Wednesday.

James Tranchemontagne, owner of the Frog and Turtle restaurant on Bridge Street, said this week that he respects Baker’s law-enforcement background. But while Tranchemontagne said he is willing to give Baker the benefit of the doubt in his new position, he finds it “fishy” that a man best known for wearing a badge must now fill the shoes left by Keith Luke.

“I don’t understand how a police administrator all of a sudden knows economic development,” he said.

Jan Curran, owner of Paper Moon, an art, jewelry and gift shop on Main Street, said she hoped Baker would know how to work with the business community.

“There definitely has to be somebody who has business in mind, and wants to bring (more) business here,” she said.

Curran said she hopes Baker can help address local business needs, such as parking and traffic, but most of all, she hopes Baker will seek out feedback from business owners like herself.

“That would be wonderful, if he would talk to everyone, get some opinions,” she said.

Susan Conroy, owner of This Old Thing?, a consignment shop on Route 302, has been in business for 15 months, and said she would welcome the chance to talk to a representative for the city about how to help promote and retain local business.

“Any exposure is good exposure,” she said.

Bill Baker, former Westbrook police chief, in a file photo.

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