The following was read to the Rockland City Council on March 13, 2017:

My name is Connie Hayes. Though, as you know, I am a member of the City Manager Search Committee, I speak to you here as a citizen. I am not representing the Search Committee in what I have to say.

Each of you City Councilors is dedicated to Rockland. You all bring your best individual ideas to improve Rockland for its citizens. Your public duties are not easy, and I am grateful you have stepped up to serve our city. We as a community depend on you to set a tone of collaboration and to guide Rockland in a productive direction. I know you all put many hours into your Council responsibilities and respond to a lot of passionate voices in our community, all wanting the best for Rockland.

Your community wants a functioning Council. We also sense that you do not always act as a cohesive team for our city. Rockland citizens want good, intelligent, compassionate growth, and well-considered policies. We also recognize the difficulty you must face in reflecting divergent perspectives among the voters.

A simple example of being stuck is that you as a group have not been able to agree on the replacement of one missing councilor for the City Manager Search Committee. This impasse seems to reflect more than just being one councilor short. What kind of a message does that send to our potential city manager applicants?

I am very happy to serve on the Search Committee for a new city manager. As one member, I volunteered to interview several highly respected, long-term managers in Maine. I asked them to respond to seven questions, hoping to better understand how to attract quality candidates that would commit to our community for a long period of time. Rockland would benefit from continuity. It would be great if Rockland could avoid the costs and confusion associated with turnover and inefficiencies. 

These seven questions were:

1. Why do city managers stay?

2. What makes a city manager position most appealing?

3. What are the most common mistakes search committees make?

4. What questions should I be asking to help Rockland secure a constructive future?

5. Do you recommend any question to ask a candidate that goes beyond an obvious list?

6. Must a city manager in Rockland have extensive experience in municipal management? Would we make a mistake in considering a candidate whose management experience lies outside of municipal government?

7. How important is it that a city manager be a resident of the municipality?

I prepared a report of the responses for the Search Committee and the City Council, reflecting my extensive phone conversations with John Bubier, retired City Manager of Biddeford; Joe Slocum, City Manager of Belfast; Joe Gray, retired City Manager of Portland; and Mike McGovern, retired City Manager of Cape Elizabeth. 

The Search Committee also met as a group with Tom Hall, Rockland’s former City Manager, now Scarborough’s City Manager, and Bill Bridgeo, Augusta’s City Manager. We heard their perspective on how to conduct a successful search for Rockland.

All six respected managers emphasized the importance of a good relationship with a cohesive, functioning City Council that knows what its community’s core values are and how to come together to act with a unified vision. They also told us not to expect a new city manager, no matter how qualified and experienced, to be able to bring a divided Council together.

Does Rockland have this cohesiveness? Can we admit that we do not have it? Can we develop it?

The Search Committee has hired MMA [Maine Municipal Association] to help with the process of vetting candidates, conducting background checks, photocopying resume packets, keeping us legal in personnel issues, and prioritizing the most qualified candidates for committee review. The six managers and retired managers we heard from said that this part of the process is not difficult to accomplish for MMA and our committee. The hard part is for all of us to deliver a City Council and community ready to steer in a unified direction. Only then can we determine if a good match exists between a candidate’s style and personality and the City Council, and with the culture of our community.

I urge us to work toward a more cohesive and collaborative Council as follows:

Accept John Bubier’s extremely generous offer pro bono to facilitate a team-building process within the Council now, before we interview candidates. Tom Hall and Bill Bridgeo both recommended John highly. (As an alternative they also recommended Don Gerrish, who most likely would charge a fee as part of his position at Eaton Peabody.) 

Rockland City Council needs to break the stuck pattern before we can attract a quality city manager or we are likely to see further inefficiencies and turnover. Please take this step to become a team. Learn team-building skills with the guidance of a seasoned professional who knows that good groundwork needs to be done to entice a quality city manager to consider committing to Rockland. We already have a very desirable city.

Connie Hayes, Rockland