AUBURN — Glenn Aho had different challenges in mind a year ago.

“I would prefer to be dealing with other things, something other than a national recession,” said Aho, Auburn’s city manager since May 2008. “I knew there’d be challenges, and I knew it would be hard work. But I prefer managerial problems, and I wish we were dealing with those.”

Aho completed his first year on the job last month, finished his work
on his first budget and is beginning to get an understanding of his
new home.

“The first year was all about learning, about bringing in
information,” Aho said. “It wasn’t time to make big changes, because
you can’t make big changes unless you know what needs to be changed.”

With a year under his belt, Aho said he has ideas for moving the city in a different direction. He’s in the process of combining four city government functions — planning, assessing, code enforcement and economic development — under a single department heading: PACE.

He has worked to make city departments more customer-focused, more efficient, less costly and more responsive to residents’ concerns.

“All that I know now is that, on the other side of all this, Auburn’s
government is going to look very different,” Aho said. “But it will be
better government.”

That’s especially important during an economic downturn. The more Auburn residents have to worry about their own finances, the more their property taxes stand out.

“That means people are watching city spending with an even bigger magnifying glass than ever before,” Aho said. “They want to know how their money is being spent, and we need to be able to tell them.”

Aho prefers managing to politics, he said. “I know there are times in this job when you need to be a politician, but I’d prefer to leave that to the city councilors. When things get political, they get inefficient. That gets very frustrating.”

Councilors hired Aho, now 39, to replace longtime manager Patricia Finnigan. Aho grew up in Aroostook County and has a master’s degree in administration from the University of Maine. Auburn hired him away from the town of Lincoln, outside Bangor. He had been that town’s manager since 1995.

Aho said he was happy with the move to Auburn, and everything it involves.

“I am truly enjoying it, very thankful for the opportunity,” Aho said. “I love public service, and I love taking on the challenge.” 

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