Jackman selectmen have voted unanimously to hire an interim town manager after their widely reported firing of Tom Kawczynski for his endorsement of racial segregation and his anti-feminist and anti-Islam remarks.

Mitchell Berkowitz, who has 43 years of experience in municipal government, will assume the role part time in February and will assist the Board of Selectmen in its search for a permanent town manager.

“I think Jackman will get past the issue from this week,” Berkowitz said in an interview Saturday. “I’m privileged to be a part of that.”

Although he officially retired in 2014, Berkowitz temporarily filled in for Jackman when a previous town manager who had been struggling with health problems stepped down in 2015. Berkowitz worked for the town from March of that year until the end of 2015, and then again from March 2017 until Kawczynski took over in July.

According to a statement by the board Friday, Berkowitz’s employment agreement is “open-ended” and allows the board to terminate the agreement without cause with a 48-hour notice.

Berkowitz, 69, who is originally from Monsey, New York, is holding a temporary position for the town of Naples until a newly hired town manager assumes his position in February. He previously held town manager jobs in Bridgton and Gray, where he now lives with his wife, as well as in Colchester, Vermont, and Berlin, New Hampshire.Berkowitz said he will focus on getting a budget ready for the town meeting and help address the loss of the town’s 24-hour emergency medical care.

Also, he will aid the board in its search for candidates for the full-time town manager position. Berkowitz said he already has begun evaluating four recruiting agencies the town could use to find qualified people.

Perhaps Berkowitz’s most important role will be to bring stability back to the town’s government.

Kawczynski’s firing brought unwanted scrutiny to the small tourist town in Somerset County near the border with Quebec. Many residents feared that Kawczynki and his beliefs would affect how outsiders view Jackman, tarnishing the town’s image and hurting its business community.

Berkowitz said he will work to repair the damage done by Kawczynski.

“The biggest thing right now is to make Jackman a place where people want to go again,” he said, but he’s confident that the town’s reputation as a friendly tourist community and key border town will remain intact.

“I know the Jackman people very well, and that is not who Jackman is,” he said. “I think they are very special, and anyone who has been there and seen the beauty of the town will want to come back.”

Emily Higginbotham can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

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Twitter: EmilyHigg

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