SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council’s decision to drop a city residency requirement for city manager candidates seems to have paid off during a second attempt to fill the position.

The council announced Tuesday that it has chosen two finalists for the position and both are from Maine, unlike a previous search that produced two out-of-state finalists, neither of whom wound up with the job.

The finalists are Scott Morelli of New Gloucester, who is city manager of Gardiner, and Patrick Venne of Portland, who is senior project manager with The Federated Companies, a national real estate investment group, and a former town manager of Berwick.

Both candidates will be in South Portland Jan. 25 and 26 to participate in the second phase of the interview process, including a community meet-and-greet event, said Interim City Manager Don Gerrish.

Morelli and Venne were selected from nine semifinalists and 33 applicants interested in replacing Jim Gailey, who left the job in July to become assistant manager of Cumberland County. Gailey was paid $121,000 per year and received a monthly vehicle allowance.

The council re-advertised the position after it offered the job to one of two finalists in November – Edward Collins of Lehi, Utah, and formerly of Maine – who initially accepted the job, then backed out before signing his contract, city officials said.

In seeking a second round of candidates, the council decided to drop the requirement that the city manager live in South Portland once hired, hoping to draw a larger and wider pool of qualified candidates in southern Maine. The first ad attracted 23 candidates, including two from Maine.

The second ad said that living in South Portland was “desirable but not mandatory,” a change that was expected to attract more local applicants who were interested in the job but might not want to sell their homes or uproot their families, especially in a tight housing market. The second ad not only drew more applicants, but 10 of them were from Maine, Gerrish said.

On Jan. 25, the public is invited to an informal gathering with both finalists and their spouses from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the South Portland Community Center. On Jan. 26, each candidate will meet with city department heads during the day and participate in a second interview with the council in the evening.

The council is expected to announce its pick for city manager and his starting date the following week.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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