Board tells manager: Time’s up

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TURNER – In a discreet unanimous vote Tuesday, selectmen decided not to renew Town Manager James Catlin’s contract.

“I’m processing all of it still,” said Catlin Thursday. He was informed of the board’s decision by phone Wednesday while he was sick at home.

“I hadn’t gotten any indication,” he said.

Catlin’s contract expires June 30. He has been Turner’s town manager for the past seven years.

Selectmen Chairman Dennis Richardson said the vote was taken following an executive session where board members discussed the contract.

The public vote, Richardson said, included no discussion. Each of the four board members probably had a separate reason for deciding not to renew Catlin’s contract, he added.

“Basically, a motion was made; there was a vote and a decision,” Richardson said.

He made the initial motion.

“It’s something that we’ve all been sensing is in the wind,” said Turner Assessing Clerk Sandra Philipon.

During some of the first budget meetings this year, selectmen asked Catlin, who is 59, if he were planning on retiring when his contract expired. At the time, Catlin could not or would not provide board members with an answer.

“It saddens me,” Philipon said. “And it puts us in a difficult position.”

Philipon, who has worked 14 years for the town, said that selectmen have a history of not renewing contracts. Each time a new town manager is hired, she said, there is an amount of stress from the learning curve.

According to Richardson, selectmen will begin the process of filling the manager’s position next month, and should have enough time to fill it before the contract ends in the spring.

“The staff continuity has always been a benefit to government operation, so this change is going to affect that,” said Town Clerk Eva Leavitt. “But day-to-day operations must continue.”

Catlin is the fourth town manager that Leavitt has worked with during her 20 years of employment in Turner.

“He’s been wonderful,” Leavitt said. “He understands local government very well, and his knowledge has been great.”

Catlin has more than 30 years experience in city and town government.

According to Selectmen’s Chairman Richardson, Catlin could reapply for the position, though there is question whether the hire would include a contract negotiation.

“I’m in transition. I’ll be reviewing all my options,” Catlin said. “It’s taken place, but life moves on, and we’ll move on with it.”

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