BIDDEFORD — Two representatives from Eaton Peabody Consulting Group heard from nine members of the public regarding Biddeford’s city manager search at a meeting at City Hall Wednesday night.

The Augusta-based consulting team has been hired by the city to assist in the search for a new city manager, which began after John Bubier, who has been the city manager for 10 years, announced in March that he is stepping down.

Eaton Peabody consultants Don Gerrish and Richard Metivier led the meeting, asking those who spoke to discuss what they feel are the issues facing Biddeford, as well as what qualities they would like to see in a new city manager.

David Flood, a Biddeford resident who owns property downtown, said he wants the new city manager to have an eye for economic development, especially in that area.

“I think we need to develop the downtown and have a parking structure,” he said, adding that more economic development translates to more jobs.

Flood also said he thinks the new city manager should be able to recognize his or her weaknesses and not be afraid to seek expert help. He alluded to instances in the past in which he felt city officials acted on matters without the proper expertise.

Resident Guy Gagnon said he supports economic development, too, but would like the new city manager to still be sensitive to the tax burden residents carry. Ideally, Gagnon said he or she would have experience growing communities, while at the same time lowering taxes to “make life a little better ”“ at least in the pocketbook.”

Resident Mellisa Luedke also spoke in favor of economic growth but with the stipulation that businesses moving into the city have “integrity.” Luedke said she fears that handing liquor licenses out to the wrong businesses could breed crime downtown.

When addressing the question of what she wants in a new city manager, Luedke said she feels strongly the city should hire externally. “I really wouldn’t feel comfortable with an internal (hire),” she said.

Two people, including former mayor Joanne Twomey, voiced concerns over gentrification. Twomey said she’s unhappy to be seeing a trend where the people who “built this city” can no longer afford to live in it.

Likewise, Deborah Burke, who moved to Biddeford three years ago, said she wants the city to keep “its moral center.”

“I would hate for Biddeford to develop into a Kennebunkport wannabe,” she said. “There are people here from all walks of life, and I’d like that to remain.”

Three other Biddeford residents spoke at Wednesday night’s meeting, as well as a senior at the University of New England, who expressed an interest in connecting the college more closely to the city as a whole.

Before the meeting began, Gerrish, who said he previously worked for 38 years as a city manager in various Maine communities, explained the hiring process.

The city started accepting applications for the city manager position on April 20, he said, and the deadline for those who wish to apply is May 13. Gerrish said he expects 25-35 applications in total.

Eaton Peabody will review the applications and suggest candidates to a city committee, he said; the City Council will have the ultimate say on who to hire. Gerrish said the goal is to have a new city manager announced in July for a start date in August.

According to the city charter, if the candidate selected for the job doesn’t already live in Biddeford, he or she would have to establish residence in the city within six months of being hired.

— Staff Writer Angelo J. Verzoni can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]

        Comments are not available on this story.

        filed under: