Auburn looks to define roles as new manager begins

0

AUBURN — On the first day for new City Manager Peter Crichton, city officials will hold a workshop to define the roles, responsibilities and the “ideal relationship” between the City Council and manager. 

The 5:30 p.m. workshop at Auburn Hall will be facilitated by Craig Freshley of Good Group Decisions, who often works with municipalities to streamline collaboration. 

According to the workshop agenda, the meeting will focus on the council/manager model of government, but will also feature a discussion on officials’ common goals for the next eight months. 

Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte introduced Crichton during a March 13 news conference, capping a lengthy search for a permanent city manager. LaBonte and city councilors are hopeful that the new manager will add stability to Auburn Hall.

Advertisement

LaBonte said Friday that he and Crichton agreed that beginning his tenure with a facilitated discussion on expectations was “an important place to start.” 

Auburn has been without a permanent city manager since Howard Kroll resigned in September 2016. Since then, Denis D’Auteuil and John Bubier have served as acting city managers, respectively. D’Auteuil is now assistant city administrator in Lewiston. 

Crichton spent the past 18 years managing Cumberland County, but is also familiar with Androscoggin County. Prior to working in Cumberland County, he spent 10 years in Lewiston, first at Lewiston Public Works, then as assistant city administrator.

In announcing the workshop last week, LaBonte said welcoming the new manager is an opportune time to hold a workshop to discuss roles and responsibilities. 

He said when he was first elected in 2012, a similar exercise was done with City Manager Don Garrish. 

According to LaBonte, Crichton has experience with Freshley, from planning retreats and other events during his time in Cumberland County. 

According to the agenda, Freshley will review council/manager model guidelines that he’s found useful while working with other municipalities, while Auburn officials will attempt to answer questions such as, “What roles and responsibilities would the council like to have, going forward, with respect to the city manager and staff? Who should do what?” 

LaBonte said the workshop will also serve as a facilitated planning session for the City Council to lay out its goals for the rest of the year.

“It will allow us to think broadly for what we’d like to accomplish during that time window,” he said.

He said Bubier is under contract until the end of June, which will give Crichton time to come up with a nominee for assistant city manager. The City Council ultimately votes to approve the candidate. 

City councilors, the mayor, and city manager will take part in Monday’s discussion “as equal participants,” the agenda states. Auburn department directors will also be on hand “as observers and available for questions and clarifications,” with each department head offered the chance for a brief comment.

Members of the public are invited to attend, the agenda states, and “no formal decisions will be made, although conclusions and informal agreements will be encouraged and captured in the notes for later deliberation and action.”

Other questions the new manager and council will look to address are:

• What would ideal roles look like played out in specific scenarios?

• What should be communicated, at what level of detail, between whom, and when?

• If a councilor, the mayor or the city manager thinks things are not working well, or if there is a conflict, what should happen? How should that be handled? 

arice@sunjournal.com

On the same day that Peter Crichton takes over as city manager in Auburn, the City Council is holding a workshop to define the “ideal relationship” between the council and city manager. 

Advertisement
SHARE