SOUTH PORTLAND — Jon Jennings’ replacement as assistant city manager is expected to become the public face of City Hall.

City Manager Jim Gailey this week said his next assistant will be responsible not only for behind-the-scenes economic development, but communications and community relations.

Jennings, who was hired in September 2013, was picked earlier this month as Portland’s new city manager. His last day on the job in South Portland will be July 9.

Jennings starting salary in South Portland was about $86,000. The salary range for his replacement will likely be between $70,000 and $90,000, Gailey said. The deadline to apply for the job is July 10. 

Jennings responsibilities have been “heavier on the economic development arm than on the assistant city manager side,” Gailey said Tuesday.

He  also oversaw the city’s sustainability efforts, including the ongoing effort to install a solar panel farm in the Thornton Heights neighborhood and the purchase of electric vehicles for city departments, as well as the impending sale of the former Maine National Guard Armory

The revised job will reflect more of a balance between the public and private aspects of government.

“I’ve kind of tailored the job to still be focused in (the economic development) arena, but also looking at the assistant manager side of things, as well as being more of a liaison for public residential neighborhood group outreach (and) business group outreach,” Gailey said. 

The new assistant city manager will also be the “point person” for public comments or complaints from residents or businesses, and be responsible for press relations, Gailey said. 

Altering the duties of the position will help bridge some otherwise “disjointed” ways City Hall functions, Gailey said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve been criticized,” he said, “but there’s always something we could be doing more.”

Since 2013, South Portland has experienced an “uptick in growth” of small- and medium-sized businesses, rather than big business, Gailey said. 

Many of them have been in the Knightville neighborhood, which has blossomed with Jennings’ support.

Jeannie Dunnigan, co-owner of Cia Cafe on Ocean Street, this week recalled her first meeting with Jennings. 

When the coffee shop opened more than two years ago, Dunnigan said, she didn’t know “a single person” in Knightville, let alone South Portland. 

“Dealing with the city and new vendors, everything was brand new,” Dunnigan said Wednesday. “For a new business owner, it can be very isolating.”

Then she received a handwritten note from Jennings, who wished Dunnigan and her husband, Bill, “the very best of luck with our new business and (said) he hoped we would have continued success in South Portland,” Dunnigan said. 

 “For him to write that, it meant so much,” she said.

Dunnigan said Jennings “always made himself accessible. Jon is such a sweet guy. I think South Portland had an amazing person on its team. I’m sorry, but there’s no one who can fill his shoes.”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

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