LISBON — When it comes to picking the right one, it’s all about the fit, retired Brunswick Town Manager Don Gerrish told a group of residents Tuesday night.

Gerrish, now a municipal management consultant for Eaton Peabody, invited townspeople to an informal session to let him know what they’re looking for in a new town manager. The Town Council hired the company to help in the selection after deciding in January not to renew former Town Manager Steve Eldridge’s contract.

“It’s not always the best-educated or the most experienced,” Gerrish said. “He or she has to be a fit for your community.”

Some common themes emerged during the hourlong meeting: good communication skills, people person, open-minded, administrative skills and a financial background.

Tony Doyon urged that the new manager become a resident of the town.

“That may limit your choices,” Gerrish cautioned. “It’s been our experience that it sometimes has a chilling effect on candidates.” Rather than require residency, Gerrish said some towns opt for having the manager live within a certain radius, so distance doesn’t become a problem in case of an emergency.

Roger Cote said he wanted the new manager “to bring some real transparency to our government.”

Larry Filmore said he would like to see someone “with a strong background in finance.” He said the software system the town uses, called Trio, “allows for too much creative accounting.”

Former Council Chairman Fern Larochelle said he would like to find someone who would be willing to spend time outside the regular workweek to meet with town committees.

“We have a lot of different committees and groups, like the Route 196 Master Plan Committee, the School Committee — a lot of volunteers,” he said. “People have told me they would like to see a manager who’s visible in the community.”

Dot Fitzgerald echoed his remark, saying, “Some of our former town managers would go out to lunch at some of the town restaurants. We want townspeople to feel free to walk up to them and offer their opinions.”

Gerrish asked the group of townspeople what they thought were the town’s major issues.

“The No. 1 problem is our tax base,” Planning Board Chairman Don Fellows said.

Fitzgerald agreed, saying, “When Knight Celotex closed, we lost a lot of tax money. We need someone who can move the town forward.”

Roger Cote said the town’s Public Works Department “is facing a giant hurdle. We lost a truck this year, and we’ve let the paving contracts go down to practically nothing.”

Several people spoke about the need to market the town.

“People drive through Lisbon to get to Lewiston or Topsham or Brunswick,” said Miriam Morgan-Alexander, who chairs the Appeals Board. “They don’t stop here.”

“We need someone with some marketing knowledge,” School Committee Chairman Traci Austin said. “We’re going to be competing with charter schools now.”

Gerrish said he planned to meet with department heads Wednesday to see what they’re looking for, and he will meet with members of the Town Council on Monday. The next step will be putting together an ad, he said, describing some of the unique characteristics of the town.

As the meeting was coming to a close, two members of the Moxie Committee, Dale Morgan and Deb Wagner, came into the room wearing their bright orange sweatshirts. The annual festival draws between 40,000 and 50,000 people and is the biggest money-maker for local nonprofits.

“And we’ll include the Moxie Festival in the ad, too,” Gerrish promised.

The goal is to have a new town manager hired by May 20, but it may be another 30 to 45 days before the person begins work, Gerrish said.


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