SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council will resume its search for a new city manager after the man named to the position on Monday evening backed out the hiring process Wednesday morning.

Edward Collins of Lehi, Utah, and formerly of Maine, sent an email to consultants assisting in the search, saying that he was “compelled to inform you this morning that I will not be executing the contract put forward by the city of South Portland.”

Collins, 51, wrote that he was withdrawing “after careful consideration of the entirety of my experiences in the selection process.” The only reason given was that “it is clear to me that I am not the right person for the job at this time.”

Collins’ withdrawal shocked Mayor Tom Blake, other councilors and the consultants, who were well into negotiating the terms of his contract, including a yearly salary of $115,000 and a monthly car allowance.

“He just sent the letter,” Blake said. “That was it.”

Blake said he had called Collins to learn more about his decision but hadn’t heard back from him. He had no further insight into Collins’ reasons for backing out, he said, and he expressed frustration that Collins accepted the position, then changed his mind.


“If you need a few more days to make a decision, you take the time,” Blake said. “That being said, we want a city manager without reservations.”

The council will discuss its next steps in seeking a new city manager during a workshop Monday. The council is seeking a replacement for Jim Gailey, who left the job in July to become assistant manager of Cumberland County. Gailey was paid $121,000 per year, plus a monthly vehicle allowance.

The council had chosen two finalists from 23 applicants and introduced them to residents during an informal meet-and-greet last week at the South Portland Community Center. Collins is a former city administrator who now runs a civil engineering firm in Lehi. The other finalist was James “Ty” Ross, 42, former city administrator of Dalton, Georgia.

The council offered the job to Collins following second interviews with each candidate last Thursday. The council decided Ross “wasn’t a good fit” for South Portland, Blake said.

“Our options are quite limited,” Blake said. “We most likely will end up (advertising the position) again.”

In its second effort, the council is expected to consider dropping the requirement that the city manager live in South Portland. The council has no firm evidence that the residency requirement was a drawback for potential candidates, Blake said, but only one of the 23 applicants was a Maine resident.


For potential applicants who live in southern Maine, the prospect of selling a house in a tight real estate market and possibly moving children from one school district to another could be daunting, said Don Gerrish, interim city manager.

Gerrish is with Eaton Peabody Consulting Group, the firm that’s also helping Cape Elizabeth town councilors with their search for a new town manager. They recently decided to tell applicants that town residency is desired but not mandatory, Gerrish said.

“It may dampen the interest of good candidates who live within driving distance,” Gerrish said.

Gerrish said his firm will continue assisting South Portland in the search under its $95,000 contract and he will continue filling in as interim city manager three days per week for an additional $650 per day.

Blake said the council may face a greater challenge finding a new city manager following the recent presidential election, which he said might increase trepidation around government jobs that have become increasingly hard to fill.

He also acknowledged that recent dissent among councilors and the city’s increasingly progressive stance on controversial environmental issues may prove challenging for some applicants, especially after South Portland residents voted overwhelmingly Democratic and liberal in Tuesday’s election.


“We respond to our residents and we’re as liberal as they get,” Blake said unapologetically. “Not that we don’t listen to and consider other people’s views in the process.”

Collins didn’t respond to a call for comment Wednesday.

A Bangor native, Collins has been general manager of Civil Engineering Services Co. in Lehi since 2006, after working as the city administrator there from 1996 to 2005. Before moving to Utah in 1994, Collins held several public service positions in Maine, including town manager in Lubec from 1987 to 1988; community development director in Calais from 1988 to 1990; and town manager in Baileyville from 1992 to 1994.

During the interview process, Collins said he decided to apply for the city manager position after his wife recently inherited a house in South Portland.

In his email to the consultants, Collins said he appreciated the confidence of the council and the work of the consultants.

“I recognize that my decision creates some difficulty for the City Council,” Collins wrote. “I apologize for that, but I feel strongly that getting the right person on the job is more important than sticking to a strict schedule or process.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.