2016-07-07 / Front Page

Former city manager looks for PT work in public sector

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – A former city manager who is Biddeford’s special projects coordinator in the economic and community development office has been exploring other employment options.

John Bubier had been Biddeford's boss for a decade when he stepped down last year and contracted with the city to assist with economic development projects at an annual salary of $75,000 for 30 hours a week. His ending city manager's salary was $128,000.

Although his contract with the city was supposed to keep him on as a special projects coordinator through 2018, Bubier said it became clear during this year's budget development that the position was going to be cut early. Bubier's tenure with the city will officially end Dec. 31.

Recently, Bubier offered to sign on as the assistant city manager for South Portland for an interim basis if the city had chosen to promote its assistant city manager, Josh Reny, to interim city manager. South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey resigned to become Cumberland County's assistant manager.

Bubier had served as a municipal manager in Lisbon, Bath and Boothbay before coming to Biddeford, and is a former director of the Greater Portland Council of Governments. Bubier offered to work for South Portland at a rate of $65 to $75 per hour for 22.5 hours per week, for up to eight months while a search for a new city manager was conducted.

South Portland decided to go another route, however, hiring former Brunswick Town Manager Don Gerrish.

Bubier said he has had conversations with several companies who specialize in providing temporary and interim municipal management services. Bubier said he believes it’s a service he could provide that utilizes his skill set but doesn't take him too far off his path toward retirement.

“At this stage of the game, at my age, I'm going to want some time off. I don't want to work full time,” Bubier said. “It was sort of a situation where I grew up in South Portland.”

Bubier, who is 72, also lives in South Portland.

“Transitional roles would probably work out well,” he added.

Several weeks ago Bubier sold his Biddeford condominium that he had owned for nearly 11 years. While city manager of Biddeford, Bubier was required to maintain residency within local borders. Bubier said he had been keeping the condo while working part-time in Biddeford the past year, but decided to sell it when it became clear his position would be cut at the end of 2016.

Bubier said even though he has continued working in city hall, he has stayed clear of interjecting advice or guidance for City Manager James Bennett.

“We've known each other for a long time,” Bubier said. “I think when he came in, I made a point of getting out of the way so he could come in, and he was the manager and it's basically his city, so to speak, from a manager's point of view. I'm not even a department head.”

Bubier said he's not bitter about the city's decision to cut his position at the year's end.

“I can see where they want to focus over the next four or five years. They chose a direction that clearly is a good one, so we'll see how it goes,” Bubier said. “ In my case, it puts me in a position to have some free time to do some more consulting and lobbying.”

Bubier said he understands why the city wants to move in a direction of having more full-time employees, but it's not for him.

“I work significantly less than being city manager. I basically interface with some of the development projects, go out and try to bring projects in and work with (Economic and Community Development Director Daniel Stevenson) when he needs assistance,” he said. “I really don't want to be full time. I could be full time for three or four months, but that's it … It's time for me not to be full time is the message here. It's a smart move on my part not to do that.”

Bubier said his time as city manager had him working 45 to 60 hours a week on average.

“It's great work, it's a lot of fun and I think people enjoy it when they're doing it,” Bubier said. “It can be difficult, but generally rewarding. When you figure out how to do things, it's rewarding and can be a rush.”

Bubier said one of his focuses as special projects coordinator has been to maintain communications with the Maine Department of Transportation regarding a proposed Exit 34 of the Maine Turnpike, to be constructed on South Street. Bubier said the proposal has been in the works since 2011, when, as then city manager, he was able to convince state officials that building a new exit ramp may be more feasible than having to reconstruct both exits 32 in Biddeford and 36 in Saco in order to keep up with traffic needs.

“What would happen, instead of fixing 36 and 32, if we were able to drive traffic out of 36 and 32 and put it into a new exit?” Bubier asked. “Can you justify the traffic counts if you take 40 percent (of traffic) out of the original two exits? The cost avoided by not having to do a significant amount of work on 36 and 32 could go toward building another intersection … That was the argument we had been raising for quite some time.”

Bubier said the state is continuing the process of exploring a South Street option.

“Interstate exits and on ramps don't grow on trees,” he said.

Bubier said he has enjoyed working and living in Biddeford, and using his connections to help further economic development in the city even after serving as city manager.

“It really has been a lot of fun,” he said.

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