DURHAM — Town officials have begun searching for candidates to fill the newly created town manager position after residents approved a town manager form of government Nov. 3.

Kevin Nadeau, chairperson of the Durham select board, said he believes the need for a top administrator has been grown in Durham for years as the town has grown.

“We have a full-time code enforcement officer, a part-time planner, a full-time fire chief and a couple of other part-time employees at the fire station, plus the town office staff,” Nadeau said. “So it’s gotten to be a pretty sizeable number of employees that really have no direct day-to-day management.”

According to Nadeau, the town ran into problems during last year’s budget season because each department completed its own budget independently without central oversight, which led to a higher budget than the town could support.

Nadeau said the goal is to have a town manager hired by Durham’s annual town meeting, which is the first Saturday in April.

Durham’s municipal ballot in November included a question about adopting a town manager form of government, which passed 1,479 to 1,085. An accompanying question asked whether to allocate $8,000 from undesignated funds to conduct a search with the help of a professional agency, which was approved 1,466 to 1,178.

On Jan. 5, the Durham Board of Selectman held a workshop to assess the desires of the community in their search for a town manager. Screenshot via Zoom

Following the election, the town hired David Barrett of the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) to vet candidates. Barrett said the MMA is still working on drafts of ads for the position and deciding where they should be placed.

“The association provides a service for a number of towns and cities to assist the elected officials when they’re recruiting a town or city manager or whatever the chief executive officer position is,” Barrett said. “We work with the board to help them through the process. They’re the decision-makers and we’re doing a lot of the background and logistical work.”

At a needs assessment workshop held by the select board Jan. 5, Durham resident Heather Roy presented the findings of a survey she created that asked community members to prioritize the top three things they felt were the most important qualifications of a new town manager.

Of the 63 responses, according to Roy, 53 people chose “prioritizing the needs of the town within the means of the residents” and 42.9% of participants listed it as the most important. Thirty-two people listed “demonstrated leadership and problem solving” and another 32 included “high regard for transparency and accountability.”

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