If any of the recently inaugurated Brunswick Town Councilors expected the first few months of the New Year to be simply routine business, they would were sorely mistaken.
Instead, the town’s nine-member deliberative body now has to address an unexpected issue for Brunswick—the selection of a new town manager.
On December 23, Town Manager Gary Brown announced that he would be resigning his position effective March 31, leaving the Council three months to search for an adequate successor.
Brown, who was hired by the town in 2009, administers the day-to-day business of Brunswick’s municipal government.
While the Council is a political body, charged with representing Brunswick’s residents and making policy decisions, the town manager is essentially an apolitical post, serving more as a hired professional executive.
A statement on the Council’s website offered no definitive reason for his resignation, only stating that the decision was a response to ongoing changes in the town and “a new direction for the Council.”
According to the Bangor Daily News, Brown said that he was not asked to resign.
At its meeting on Tuesday, the Council began discussing the job search in earnest, entertaining public comments on the subject.
Joined by Town Clerk Fran Smith, filling in for Brown, the number of councilors almost matched the 11 members of the public in attendance.
Ed Cowan, a Brunswick resident and owner of a laundromat at Cook’s Corner, told the Council that the next town manager “needs to be a businessperson” in order to “run our town more like a business.” During the Council’s debate, several members echoed this sentiment.
In reviewing the previous hiring advertisement for Town Manager, Council Chair Benet Pols suggested that the Council consider rethinking a mandatory requirement of five to seven years of town managerial experience for fear that it might drive away desirable candidates that came from outside the public sector.
Councilor Suzan Wilson agreed, adding more specifically that the town should consider business executives and CEOs in its applicant pool.
The Council finished the debate by setting a date of February 10 for a public workshop for further discussion of the issue.
Other issues also loom on the Council’s radar. A preliminary budget report compiled by the town’s financial director has led to predictions of a possible property tax increase, due to a loss of funds from Maine’s state revenue sharing program.
However, at Tuesday’s meeting, Pols announced that he and Councilor Sarah Brayman would be attending a hearing in Augusta to voice their support for a bill that would prevent a cut of $40 million in state aid to city and town governments.
If the bill is passed, Pols stated that the Town of Brunswick would receive $600,000, something he called a “significant number for us.”