LEWISTON — It took Jim Bennett’s family a whole Saturday afternoon to decorate his new office at City Hall in 2002.

Wednesday morning, he took down those decorations by himself, filling empty cardboard boxes with books, photographs and mementos from seven years as Lewiston’s city administrator.

His son, now 16, has a summer job of his own.

“I told him to get going, this morning when he left,” Bennett joked. “He still has a job.”

His wife and daughter waited for him at home Wednesday, the day after his boss, the Lewiston City Council, voted to part company and buy out his contract. The buyout includes a year’s salary and health insurance.

According to the contract, councilors could end Bennett’s employment without citing a cause. In exchange, he would receive a $110,000 a year salary, health insurance and the use of a city vehicle. He’ll keep that vehicle for at least another few weeks, he said.

“I need time to come up with the cash to get a new car,” he said.

If he’s upset by the turn of events, he’s not saying so.

“It’s just the fact of this kind of business; the manager works for the council,” Bennett said Wednesday. “I’ve understood this, which is why I negotiated the contract I did. It basically contained a prenuptial agreement, in case the councilors wanted a divorce. They have every right to do that, and that’s exactly what they did.”

However, Tuesday night’s decision was a surprise, he said.

He hasn’t talked to any of the councilors since the meeting, he said. “I never really talked to any of them, anyway. Communicating with me was never really very important with this council, over the past 18 months.”

A previous council appointed him in 2002 — hiring him away from the city of Westbrook. For Bennett, a Lisbon native, it was a dream job.

“Lewiston has always been a special place for me. I grew up with that as the big city,” he said in 2002. “Whatever happens in Lewiston and Auburn has a direct impact on every other town in the area. By being successful in Lewiston, you can make a huge difference for the whole region.”

He said Wednesday he is most proud of helping to win the All-America City designation for Lewiston in 2007. His biggest regret dates back to January 2003, when his attention was focused on groups of neo-Nazis planning to host an anti-Somali rally in Lewiston. His mother was dying of cancer at the time.

“It was crazy around here, and there was nothing I could do,” Bennett said. “We had so much planning and preparation to do, I couldn’t spend the time I wanted with my mother. She died a few weeks later.”

The family will remain in Lewiston for the next few years, until his children graduate from Lewiston High School. His son will be a sophomore this year, his daughter a freshman. “We’ve agreed that that’s the best thing for them,” Bennett said.

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Timeline of Jim Bennett’s term as city administrator

Background: Jim Bennett was born in Lewiston, and grew up in Lisbon. He served as a selectman there from 1982 through 1986, before giving up his elected position and becoming town manager for the town of Dixfield. He worked there until 1988, when he became town manager for New Gloucester through 1990. He served as town manager of Old Orchard Beach from 1990 through 1997, when he moved on to Westbrook before taking the job in Lewiston.

2002

March 25: Hired as Lewiston city administrator

July: City condemns Captain Morgan’s Fine Line Tattooz & Body Pierce and the Lewiston House of Pizza & Restaurant on 49 Main St., to establish the western gateway

October: Bennett begins negotiations with Tom Platz to turn over Bates Mill buildings

2003


January:
Many and One Coalition and World Church of the Creator rallies

February: City approves $2 million financial incentive package to bring the Maineiacs to the Central Maine Civic Center

May: Trash collection to apartment buildings trimmed

May: Plans to revamp southern gateway along Lisbon Street announced

June: New downtown development districts created around lower Lisbon Street and Longley Bridge

June: City Hall staff reorganized

July: Park Street parking garage opens

October: B Street Community Center opens

December: Andover College announces campus opening on lower Lisbon Street; VIP Auto Discount Center announces move to outer Lisbon Street

2004


January:
City accepts $4.7 million in new debt to take over the Central Maine Civic Center

May: City borrows $1.5 million to build a three-story façade on the civic center

June: City purchases three lots on Main Street for $250,000, where Lewiston Radiator Works and the former Hotel Holly were destroyed in a gas explosion and fire in January

July: Western gateway park named in honor of former Mayor Laurier T. Raymond Jr.

August: City strikes deal with Platz on Bates Mill

2005


January:
City hears $29 million development plan for Island Point condominiums

April: Ziad Hamzeh’s documentary film “The Letter” premieres in Lewiston

June: City approves demolition of old St. Dominic Regional High School

June: Discussions begin on combining dispatch services across Androscoggin County

Augusta: City abandons Heritage Initiative, a plan to carve a boulevard through the downtown

September: City settles lawsuit and counterclaim with Roger Theriault over sale of Central Maine Civic Center, now called the Colisee

October: City begins negotiations with Casella Waste Systems to truck out-of-state waste to Lewiston landfill

2006


January:
City announces plan to revitalize Kennedy Park

February: Lewiston begins talks with Auburn to move toward more government cooperation, consolidation

March: Property revaluation plan announced; plan tossed after taxpayers resist

April: City announces plans to institute storm runoff fees to raise $1.6 million for local spending

2007


January:
City names members to new Citizens Commission on Lewiston-Auburn Cooperation

May: City begins to seek buyer for the Colisee

May: City inks MMWAC ash-for-trash deal through 2017

June: Lewiston named All-America City in Anaheim, Calif., contest

June: City gives the Colisee $650,000 to cover two years’ worth of operational losses at the ice rink.

September: City trashes Casella waste deal

November: City competes with Auburn to bring Marriott Hotel to downtown

2008


March:
Bennett named one of three Northeast vice presidents to the International City/County Management Association’s national board

April: City scales back renovation plans at Kennedy Park to save money

April: City enters agreement with Winston Hospitality Group to take over Island Point project

May: City reaches deal with Firland Management on Androscoggin Bank Colisee sale

August: City imposes a downtown development moratorium

2009


January:
Talks between Auburn and Lewiston to combine services end

April: City decides to tear down Bates Mill No. 5

July 14: City Council votes to fire Bennett

Former Lewiston City Administrator Jim Bennett hugs Joline Boulay as he prepares to leave the city building for the final time on Wednesday afternoon. “I have total respect for you,” said Boulay as she wished Bennett good luck.

Jim Bennett says goodbye to the people he has worked with for the past seven years at Lewiston City Hall on Wednesday.


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