LEWISTON — After 18 years with the city, Deputy City Administrator Phil Nadeau said he’s often in awe of the experiences he’s had.

“I pinch myself,” he said in his office Wednesday reflecting on his time.

Nadeau announced his retirement earlier Wednesday, citing a need to focus on family.

His resignation, effective June 30, was made public in a city news release in which Mayor Robert Macdonald called the retirement a “tremendous loss for the city of Lewiston.”

“He has given his heart and soul during his service with city government, and we have all benefited from his expertise and insight,” Macdonald said.

Nadeau said his most memorable experiences include meeting Neil Leifer, the photographer who captured boxer Muhammad Ali’s moment of victory against Sonny Liston in Lewiston in 1965, and Nadeau’s work on immigrant relations since the first Somali families resettled in the city in 2001.

“That changed everything,” he said. “It affected our place in the world.”

Since that time, Nadeau has been a sought-after voice on immigrant relations, often speaking at conferences nationwide. He said his role in Lewiston’s changes came down to timing.

“Nobody else was working on it,” he said, referring to the city’s unforeseen growth.

Nadeau said Wednesday that anyone who knows him knows he’s been talking about retirement for a long time. In the announcement, Nadeau said balancing work and family life has been challenging, and that he feels now is the right time to make a change.

“The circumstances are as good as they’re going to be. There’s never a perfect time,” he said.

He said he’s been “very fortunate” in his career, especially being able to work for his hometown, and with four talented city administrators. He said he spoke to former Administrator Jim Bennett over the phone early Wednesday to tell him the news.

Nadeau’s decision comes after 23 years of working in municipal government, starting as town manager in Richmond. He became Lewiston’s deputy city administrator in 1999.

During his time in the city, he’s also focused on transportation and water quality.

Nadeau, 61, has also served as the city’s Labor-Risk Management director, chief union negotiator and freedom of information officer.

Nadeau followed an interesting path to working at City Hall — one that brought him from the U.S. Air Force and a job at the Pentagon, where he met his wife, Marcia, to jobs in the wine and beer business.

In the ’80s, he launched a restaurant with his brother and father, but it struggled under a tough economy. Then, a devastating fire at his family’s business, Friends Deli, led to Nadeau finishing his degree in public administration at the University of Maine at Augusta. (He had run out of money to attend Bates College.)

He admitted Wednesday that he got into the profession late, and that the town of Richmond took a chance on him.

“It took me 19 years to get my BS,” he said, laughing, adding that when he graduated, he created 15 different resumes for 15 different jobs.

Then, while in Richmond, his wife saw an ad for the deputy city administrator position in Lewiston. He admits he may have benefited from a little home-field advantage. He knew a number of city employees.

“It’s not something that happens very often,” he said of working in public administration in a hometown. “I’ve been blessed.”

His fellow city administrators shared kind words about working with him, including City Administrator Ed Barrett, who said “his love for his hometown shines through in everything he does. Phil has never turned away from a challenge and always steps forward to take on tasks and responsibilities. He’s been a great asset to our community.”

Barrett called Nadeau a troubleshooter and a “jack-of-all-trades” for the city. Recently, he said, Nadeau had been shepherding the L-A transit system through an aging fleet, finding ways to keep the system going with limited resources.

As for his work with the city’s immigrant community, Barrett said Nadeau has been the go-to guy on immigrant relations since well before Barrett came to the city.

“He’s done a lot of work keeping everyone coordinated and on the same page,” Barrett said.

“He will be extremely missed,” said Dottie Perham-Whittier, Lewiston’s community relations coordinator. “He has been one of my supervisors for the last 18 years, and he is by far one of the most incredible individuals I have ever known. I have learned a great deal from him, and I admire his integrity, good humor and love of community.”

Nadeau said the time frame until his retirement will benefit the city, giving him more time to work with a potential replacement.

In a 2012 Sun Journal interview, Nadeau said he was eyeing a 2015 retirement. On Wednesday, he said the six months will give the city time for a transition, so City Hall “is not scrambling.”

“All of us have known he’s been thinking of retiring, but he firmed up that decision this week,” Barrett said.

He said the city would like to hire someone before Nadeau leaves, leaving an opportunity for “knowledge transfer.”

As for retirement, Nadeau says he doesn’t have any firm plans yet, though a book could be in the works.

Nadeau said his experiences come down to one thing: “a series of opportunities.”

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