South Portland is officially in the market for a new combination assistant city manager and economic development director now that the Portland City Council has confirmed Jon Jennings as the new city manager there.

Jennings is set to begin his new job on July 13, after being confirmed by the Portland City Council during a meeting held Monday, and South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey is already advertising for his replacement.

Resumes for the open position in South Portland are due by July 10 and the salary offered will be commensurate with qualifications and experience, according to the job listing.

This week Jennings told the Current that, “South Portland is an incredible place to raise a family, create a small business and be an integral part of a terrific community. I will miss South Portland tremendously.”

Although Jennings will miss working in South Portland, he said the chance to lead Portland – Maine’s largest city – was just too good to pass up.

“I was attracted to the (city manager) position because it is Portland. I would not have had an interest in (any other) city outside of Portland,” he said. “I was fortunate to build a business in Portland, work with partners to create the July Fourth celebration and many other opportunities. I am excited about the opportunity in Portland, but deeply thankful to South Portland and especially Jim Gailey.”

In a press release issued on June 12, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said, “I’m pleased that Jon has accepted our offer to be Portland’s next city manager. Jon’s unique background in both government and business will serve Portland well. I look forward to him getting to work.”

The press release said that Jennings was chosen to take the reins in Portland following a national search.

He was hired under a three-year employment contract with an annual base salary of $148,064. Jennings takes the post after it was first vacated by Mark Rees last summer and then acting City Manager Sheila Hill-Christian last month.

Portland Councilor David Brenerman, who is chairman of the Nominating Committee, said last week that, “The council and staff in City Hall are looking for the kind of leadership that Jon will provide. Jon is the right person at this time to be our city manager. He’s a motivator with a vision for the future of the city.”

This week South Portland Mayor Linda Cohen told the Current, “I’m sorry to lose Jon, as I hear great things from our business community about how wonderfully helpful he is to work with.”

However, Cohen is also happy for Jennings and “excited for the city in which I grew up to see such a talented, well-connected and all-around good guy take the reins. Portland needs someone with great people skills, as well as the business acumen that Jon brings.

I wish Jon success.”

For his part Gailey said that Jennings is “a terrific person” and “a great co-worker. I enjoyed learning from him as much as he learned from me. I think Jon’s vast experiences brought a dynamic to our discussions, (and) I learned a lot from Jon.”

Overall, Gailey said, Jennings “brought a different perspective to local government because of his federal and private development experiences. His fresh ideas and willingness to explore many initiatives made for many exciting conversations.”

The job listing Gailey posted calls South Portland “a vibrant community of 25,000 located on picturesque Casco Bay,” which is “known for its working waterfront, air quality, retail and industry.”

The posting also said the city was recently recognized as a New England Top 10 Best City based on several factors, including its economy and prosperity, safety, culture, health and quality of life.

The job listing said that the duties of the assistant city manager include aiding the city manager with city administration functions, along with the development and implementation of the city’s economic strategy.

According to the advertisement, South Portland is looking for an assistant city manager with “demonstrated leadership, vision, experience and success in urban planning, economic development, working with media outlets, knowledge of municipal structure and experience in analyzing public policy issues,” among other qualifications.

This week Jennings told the Current that what he’s most enjoyed about working in South Portland for the past couple years are the people and the “ability to get things done on their behalf.”

He called South Portland a “vibrant community with amazing neighborhoods and a diversity of businesses. I see a great future for (the city).”

In addition, both Gailey and Jennings feel that with Jennings in the top job just over the Casco Bay Bridge, there will be even more opportunities to strengthen the ties between the two cities.

Jennings said, “I believe there are many opportunities to create inter-local agreements between Portland and South Portland (and) I know there are other areas where we can create effective partnerships that will create greater efficiencies and save money.”

Gailey agreed and said with Jennings at Portland City Hall, “The working relationship just got stronger.”

He added, “Portland and South Portland have always worked together on items. I think what will change is that (with) Jon, who knows what we’re up to in South Portland, it may spur more collaboration on special projects.”

Jon Jennings

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