A man walks a dog past the Southwest Harbor town office in this November 2020 file photo. The town's select board voted 3-2 on Tuesday to fire Town Manager Justin VanDongen two and a half years into his three year contract. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

Southwest Harbor has fired its town manager two-and-a-half years into his three-year contract.

The town’s selectmen Tuesday voted 3-2 to terminate Justin VanDongen. VanDongen’s last day on the job will be Tuesday, Feb. 2, said Kristen Hutchins, chair of the board.

Hutchins said she and board member Carolyn Ball voted in favor of retaining VanDongen, but board members George Jellison, Allen Willey and Chad Terry voted to fire him. She declined to say what the reasons for his termination were because selectmen discussed the matter in executive session, out of public view.

VanDongen isn’t the only municipal manager in the region to lose his job this week. Eastport city councilors voted 4-1 on Wednesday to fire their manager, Thomas Hoskins II, one year into his three-year contract.

Hutchins said Southwest Harbor’s board has begun looking for an interim town manager to oversee town office personnel while the town begins the process of advertising the position and then picking candidates to interview.

Hutchins said the town expects it will be challenging to attract multiple qualified candidates for the position. Even before the pandemic started, she said, the number of qualified people interested in applying for top municipal administrative positions appeared to be shrinking.

In Ellsworth, a recent search for a new city manager ran into a dead end at one point when the final candidate the city wanted to hire changed his mind and withdrew his name from consideration. The City Council there ended up offering the job to Glenn Moshier, who had served as Ellsworth’s police chief before being appointed interim city manager.

“I think it is increasingly difficult to find people who will do this work,” Hutchins said. “It is a big concern for me.”

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....