ROCKLAND, Maine — City Manager Tom Hall has been in the middle of economic development for the past nine years.
“I was an integral part of making companies feel welcome,” he said in an interview Monday.
All that will end in another five weeks when he moves on to take a similar position in southern Maine.
Hall, who has been city manager since September 1999, after coming from a position as assistant town manager of Bethlehem Township in Pennsylvania, will become the new town manager of Scarborough.
“He’s done an incredible job in Rockland,” said Knox County Commissioner Anne Beebe-Center. “I think Rockland has lost a very capable manager.
“I hope they do as well in their next choice, because Rockland is fragile,” she said. “It can choose to grow responsibly or it can choose not to grow at all.”
Hall’s last day on the job will be Oct. 10, and he will start his new job Nov. 3.
“I’ve got a lot of things to get straightened out, not the least of which is getting myself situated there,” said Hall, 41, a Presque Isle native with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maine and master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University.
While Scarborough is a town and Rockland a city, the structure of the two municipal governments is similar, he said.
Scarborough has a seven-member council and a charter. Rockland has a five-member council and a charter.
“With one notable exception, I would have the same duties and responsibilities as here,” he said. “The exception is that in Scarborough, the schools are a municipal department, with a total budget of $84 million.
“There’s a full-time school superintendent and a board of school directors, but technically it’s a municipal department,” he said.
The school budget authority rests with the Town Council.
“My task will be to propose a budget to the Town Council as a starting point, and that starting point includes the school.
“That’s going to be a bit of a change for me to work with those dynamics, as well.”
He will go from managing 100 employees in Rockland to 150 employees in Scarborough and from an annual salary of $87,000, the figure set for next year, to $104,000.
“This is a tremendous opportunity,” he said.
Hall follows a career municipal manager named Ron Owens, who is retiring from his Scarborough job after eight years.
“The challenge will be that they like Ron very much. When I asked the Town Council what they were looking for, they answered, ‘Another Ron,’” Hall said.
He said Owens has put together a top organization and staff, which gives Hall the luxury of stepping into a well-run town.
“I don’t believe there’s any problem area that’s going to need attention,” he said.
Scarborough has 54 square miles of police patrol area, compared to Rockland’s 12.5 miles.
“They have 35 police officers, and five different fire stations,” he said. “The Fire Department has a great mutual aid relationship with all its neighbors.”
He acknowledged that the move would be a challenge for his children and his wife, Kerry, who has established a career in Rockland as a real estate broker.
The accomplishment Hall is most proud of while serving in Rockland is the quality of staff he has been able to assemble.
“Anyone in management realizes quickly that the best thing you can do is surround yourself with good people,” he said. “They make you look good, and they make your job easier.”
“Beyond that, my goal has been to stabilize the tax base.
“There are two ways to do it: control spending and expand the tax base, spread the burden across.
“Rockland’s challenge is all redevelopment,” he said. “There are no large tracts of land left to plow under to embrace the new retail stores,” he said.
“It’s really tough to do things with modern codes and strict safety requirements,” he said of redeveloping downtown areas.
One redevelopment opportunity he has worked on is tax increment financing for the Tillson Avenue District as a way to control the tax rate while redeveloping the waterfront.
“The TIF will allow the city to make some strategic public improvements that will be necessary in the Tillson district,” he said.