Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett, right, talks with Peter Crichton in the Auburn council chambers after Monday’s meeting to introduce Crichton as the new Auburn city manager. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — Peter Crichton, a longtime manager for Cumberland County, has been named the new city manager in Auburn.

Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte introduced Crichton during a news conference Monday morning, capping a lengthy search for a permanent city manager and one that officials hope will add stability to Auburn Hall.

“We have certainly been through some turnover with senior management in the city, and while the council has always been confident and proud of the team we have working for the city, they recognized it’s critically important to find senior leadership that will blend with the leadership we already have,” LaBonte said. “We’re all extremely excited that Peter has agreed to join our team.”

The City Council approved the contract with Crichton during a meeting Monday night. He’s expected to start April 10.

Crichton spent the past 18 years managing Cumberland County, but is also familiar with Androscoggin County. Prior to working in Cumberland County, he spent 10 years in Lewiston, first at Lewiston Public Works, then as assistant city administrator.

New Auburn City Manager Peter Crichton. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

“It’s a great privilege and honor for me to accept this position,” Crichton said Monday.

He said he’ll be spending time over the next few weeks getting to know more about the city, its current issues, staff and City Council, to make sure there is a shared vision for Auburn.

“I’m sure members of the community have expectations of what they’re looking for and I want to understand what those are,” he said.

Crichton said he’s been fortunate with his experience in Cumberland County, adding he had “a great team.”

“I’m looking forward to working with everyone here,” said Crichton, who will make $130,000 a year. “It does take a team to make things happen.”

The three-year contract approved by the City Council on Monday stipulates that after each annual performance review, the contract would be extended by another year, if all parties agree. The salary is based on 40 hours per week, at $2,500 per week.

Auburn has been searching for a permanent city manager since the departure of Howard Kroll in September 2016. A first round of applicants last fall was ultimately unsuccessful.

Assistant City Manager Denis D’Auteuil said he was offered the position but decided to withdraw his candidacy. In February, D’Auteuil announced he had accepted the assistant city administrator job in Lewiston.

Since then, Auburn officials brought in John Bubier, a former Biddeford city manager, as acting city manager on an interim basis to help develop next year’s budget.

LaBonte said Monday that Bubier will remain in Auburn until June, meaning Crichton and Bubier will overlap for almost two months when both will continue to develop the budget.

He said the Auburn charter allows the city manager to bring a candidate for assistant city manager to the City Council for confirmation, and may decide to keep Bubier on for longer. LaBonte said Bubier will also get Crichton up to speed on the budget process. The charter requires a manager’s report and recommended budget, the latter moving on to the City Council soon.

Last year, Auburn was faced with a difficult budget season, which resulted in five layoffs. The city will again have to identify more than $800,000 in cuts while crafting next year’s budget this spring.

The process toward hiring Crichton moved quickly, LaBonte said, due to Crichton’s resume and experience.

“He quickly rose to the top,” he said, referring to the applicant pool.

Councilor Leroy Walker said Monday the council tried to listen more during the recent interviews, and base their decision on personality. He said he wanted to see how the candidate felt about the city, and why it’s a good place for a career.

“He came across strong,” he said. “We all felt he had the personality and wisdom to drive the cart forward. I think we’re finally on one track together.”

Walker said the council interviewed roughly six candidates in person, with a few follow-up interviews. Both rounds of the city manager search were conducted with assistance from the Maine Municipal Association.

LaBonte said Crichton, as manager in Cumberland County, oversaw all operations, including public health, economic and community development, and public-private partnerships.

LaBonte told the Sun Journal in February he wanted to have a new city manager in place by the end of March. He said the speed of the hiring process exceeded his expectations, even with Crichton traveling recently and a member of the Auburn City Council being on vacation.

During the news conference, LaBonte said questions have been raised over the lack of public input in the hiring process. The City Council has met in executive session during each regular council meeting since the application process closed Feb. 1, and did not provide a chance for the public to weigh in on the decision.

LaBonte said the city did not publicly announce Crichton as a finalist sooner because he only just informed Cumberland County of his departure over the weekend, after returning from travel.

Crichton, a Windham resident, grew up in Aroostook County. He said he’s looking forward to being a part of municipal government again, “part of a community and involved in community organizations.”

He also said he’s looking forward to reconnecting and working with people he’s known for a long time. Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett also attended the news conference Monday.

Crichton’s wife, Jennifer, works for Central Maine Healthcare.

“It’s always great to have a tandem team working in Lewiston-Auburn,” LaBonte said.

Crichton said he’s heard great things about the Auburn staff.

“We’re all in this together,” he told the audience Monday, which included most of the city’s department heads. “I’m thrilled to be here.”

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Auburn City Manager Peter Crichton was introduced to the public at Auburn City Hall on Monday morning. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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