While planning to post Portland’s city manager job this week, a search committee conducting the process will launch a public survey to help guide their evaluation of candidates.
Last week, the city manager search subcommittee conditionally approved the city manager post’s job description along with an accompanying brochure describing Portland, its budget process and existing departments in City Hall.
It’s the latest step in the process of finding a city manager in Maine’s largest city, which has been seeking a permanent replacement for outgoing city manager Jon Jennings, who left in November 2021. The city is in a period of redefining city leadership, with key vacancies at city manager and police chief amid a mayoral election in the fall.
Unlike the city’s police chief search, the subcommittee chose to hold off on community outreach until after posting the job. They hope to launch a community survey and plan to discuss it at a Jan. 19 meeting.
“I fear if we wait too long, we’ll find ourselves in a situation where we’re playing catchup with the survey tool,” said Mayor Kate Snyder, who chairs the subcommittee.
The job posting would ideally be up for a month, though Councilor Mark Dion, a member of the subcommittee, said it would realistically remain open until the city hires a candidate. The public survey would likely be live for two weeks on the city’s website.
The vote came with the assurance that Baker Tilly, the search firm hired to facilitate the hiring, make edits to the brochure adding more information about the city’s diversity, equity and inclusion goals in City Hall and the school district, along with recommendations from the Racial Equity Steering Committee. They also asked that the brochure address Portland’s history as a refugee resettlement community, as well as a destination for immigrants.
Instead of what had previously been described as an extensive community outreach process, Baker Tilly interviewed city councilors and nine staff members for the draft narrative for the brochure. Anne Lewis, a representative from Baker Tilly, said the public outreach process would be better used as part of the evaluation of candidates once they come in.
Dion said the job description was more about “the competencies” of the job, and makes sure a candidate checks the boxes of the required functions of a city manager. The brochure, he said, was about the “human issues we want in a candidate.”
The subcommittee recommended the pay range for the city manager position jump to $190,000 to $225,000. This would be an increase on interim city manager Danielle West’s $181,000 salary. Former city manager Jon Jennings’ salary was $192,784 when he left the job in November 2021.