SOUTH PORTLAND — Only a handful of people attended the first public input session Wednesday night on the role and characteristics residents desire in the next city manager.

Interim Manager Don Gerrish led the Aug. 17 meeting, which was attended by eight residents, including two city councilors and a Planning Board member.

Gerrish has served as interim since late July. He replaced former City Manager Jim Gailey, who left the position after nearly a decade to become assistant manager for Cumberland County. 

The city hired Gerrish, a former town manager in Brunswick and Gorham, and his employer, Eaton Peabody Consulting Group, to lead the search for a permanent manager, which is expected to take three to four months. 

In outlining desirable traits for a new manager, speakers at the meeting said they hope the council will take its time finding a strong leader who is a visionary; takes an active role in the community; values transparency, and works to attract businesses that benefit the health and wellness of residents.

Rosemarie De Angelis, a former city councilor, said she hopes “the new city manager is strong enough and confident enough to set limits,” in terms of the symbiotic relationship with the council. “Councilors are not micro-managers of the city,” she said. 

De Angelis also said she would like to see an “effort to attract a wide and diverse population” to apply for the position.

Despite South Portland being the fourth-largest city in the state, there is “not a single woman department head,” De Angelis said, noting that every manager  in the city’s history has been a white man.

Russ Lunt, of Brigham Street, said he wants a manager who “takes a more active role in attracting businesses and retaining them.”

Lunt also said he wants a city manager who “keeps everything transparent (and) out in the open.”

Councilors Brad Fox and Eben Rose, and Planning Board member Adrian Dowling, also attended the meeting.

Gerrish said the position will be advertised on a national scale for four weeks, and he and his team will do initial screening before applicants are recommended to the council. 

He told members of the public Wednesday that he expects to see between 30 and 35 applicants. 

The council will convene in an executive session Wednesday, Sept. 28, to cull through the applicants, and the first round of interviews is expected to take place Oct. 10-13, when the pool will be narrowed to the top eight or 10 candidates, Gerrish said. 

A second round of interviews will be conducted Oct. 24-27, after which two finalists will emerge. 

The top two candidates will be brought in to the city to meet with department heads, councilors and members of the public before a final decision is made. 

Throughout the process residents will be able to express their opinions by sending comments to [email protected].

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

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