Westbrook Mayor Michael Foley celebrates his win on Election Night 2019. Contributed file photo/ American Journal

Westbrook Mayor Michael Foley, who late last week announced his resignation effective Feb. 12, says he is leaving the city in good hands.

Foley, active in city government since his teens, has accepted a position as town manager in Gray.

City Council President David Morse will become the acting mayor, in accordance with the city charter, until Foley’s replacement is elected to fill the remainder of his term, which ends in the fall of 2025. The council will determine when that election takes place.

“It is bittersweet to leave this role as I start a new chapter in my career, but I have the utmost confidence in the security of Westbrook’s future,” Foley wrote in an opinion column this week in the American Journal.


He said he has “absolute faith in the leadership of our City Administrator Jerre Bryant, Assistant City Administrator Angela Holmes and Morse to maintain the stability that we have collectively worked to achieve.”

Morse, a city councilor since 2019, said Monday that he “was not expecting this, but I am prepared and energized to take on the responsibilities of acting mayor.”


Bryant said Morse’s “knowledge, experience and leadership will provide for a seamless transition.”

Foley has been “an outstanding mayor,” Bryant said. “He has brought an energy and level of engagement to the city that has enabled tremendous accomplishments over the past four years.”

City Councilor Gary Rairdon described Foley’s work to guide the city through the pandemic as “remarkable.”

“I wish him well, he’s done a great job for Westbrook,” Rairdon said.

Foley grew up in Westbrook and served as a student representative on the School Committee as a junior in high school. At age 18 while still in high school, he ran a successful campaign for an at-large seat on the City Council, which he served on for a total of 12 years.

He won election as mayor in a 2019 four-way race with 1,156 votes, edging out incumbent Michael Sanphy with 1,061; and challengers Phil Spiller, 1,002; and Michael Shaughnessy, 522. He was reelected to another three-year term in 2022 in an uncontested race.


Projects that came to fruition during his administration include Rock Row and the rising of Vertical Harvest and a downtown parking garage.

Amid Foley’s successes, controversies also have arisen.

Former mayoral candidate Spiller has been an outspoken critic of the Foley administration.

“I wish all the best to Mayor Foley, his family and his continued career aspirations while moving on to a role likely better suited for him,” Spiller said this week, adding that he thinks Foley had reached his “zenith of political influence in the city.”

Last summer, Spiller blasted the Foley administration in an opinion column in the American Journal about the city’s removal of the swimming pool from the Cornelia Warren Outdoor Recreation Area and for not installing a planned splash pad in its place. Spiller also has been critical of the lack of a “housing component” connected to the Vertical Harvest-parking garage development.

In the fall, residents packed meetings to object to plans for residential development on three free parking lots downtown, plans Foley has touted.


Most recently, the city’s removal of a Star of David from a downtown holiday display of lights sparked international news coverage and Foley announced then he wouldn’t seek reelection or election to any other public office. The city afterwards hosted a Hanukkah observance.

Morse said the city has prospered under Foley’s administration and he intends to continue on that course.

“The biggest challenges facing Westbrook are the continuing housing shortage and ensuring Westbrook continues to be an affordable place to live and work,” Morse said.

“To that end, I am going to make sure Westbrook continues to lead the region in being a desirable place to build housing and locate new businesses. I’m looking forward to the spring as we take on the task of setting a fiscally responsible budget for the next year that meets the needs of our community,” Morse said.

Morse was chosen as City Council president in 2023 after serving as vice president. He grew up in Westbrook and graduated from Westbrook High School in 2002.

Foley said in his column that Morse would be willing to run for the position long-term. Spiller said he has no plans at this time to run again for the mayor’s seat.

Foley has started his job in Gray on a part-time basis, and will go full time Feb. 13 with a salary of $115,000.

The Gray Town Council unanimously selected Foley for the position.

“Michael impressed the Town Council by his leadership abilities, local government experience and personality,” Town Council Chair Krista Chappell said in a news release. “It was clear he is a prime candidate to lead Gray and its government into our town’s prosperous future. This leadership includes both daily governance and major projects, like the ongoing, community-led effort to transform the Gray Village.”

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