The list of possible new Bar Harbor town managers has been narrowed down to three from 29 people who applied for the job.

The Town Council, including three new councilors who were elected on Tuesday, plans to meet Wednesday in executive session so the new members can quickly get up to speed on who is in the running for the town’s top administrative post.

The position has been vacant since late January when Kevin Sutherland, Bar Harbor’s prior town manager, was given two days by the council to accept a severance package. Citing confidential personnel matters, the town has not given a reason why it gave Sutherland only two days to accept the separation offer.

Sarah Gilbert, Bar Harbor’s finance director, has been serving as interim town manager in the meantime.

Out of the 29 applicants, the council initially identified six candidates, said Val Peacock, the council chair who was elected Tuesday to another three-year term. Since then, the council has interviewed three of those six while three others have withdrawn their applications, she said.

Peacock on Wednesday was unanimously re-appointed by her fellow councilors as chair of the panel — a position she has held for the past year. As the council chair, she will lead the council’s deliberations on who it should hire as the town’s next top administrative official.

The town recorded video of the first round of interviews so new councilors who were elected Tuesday can watch them before the council decides what to do next, Peacock said. Maine Municipal Association is assisting Bar Harbor with its town manager search.

The council could conduct second interviews with the remaining three candidates in the coming weeks. Peacock declined to say who the candidates are, but said that if any of them come to Bar Harbor to meet town staff and residents, their names will be publicly released prior to the council making its final decision.

In the fall of 2021, before they had a second interview with Sutherland and then formally hired him, town officials publicly identified him as their preferred finalist for the town manager position. They also identified former town manager Cornell Knight, who preceded Sutherland, as a finalist for the job before they hired him in 2014.

The town does not want to drag out the current hiring process longer than necessary, Peacock said, but it also wants to be sure it makes a good choice. Sutherland’s tenure of only 13 months followed a stable period of 35 years during which Bar Harbor had only two town managers — Dana Reed from 1986 to 2014 and Knight from 2014 through the end of 2021.

“It’s more important to find the right person than to do it fast, but there’s a lot of competition [among towns] for town managers right now,” Peacock said.

Because a new manager sometimes has to give a month or more notice to the employer they are leaving, Peacock said she would like to have a new manager in place this fall, before the town begins the process of drafting the 2024-2025 budget.

Peacock noted that Sutherland started in early January, which is when the council usually begins going through budget recommendations. Bringing in a new manager in the middle of budget season is “a tricky thing to ask someone to do,” she said.

Correction: An earlier version of this inaccurately described how Bar Harbor’s list of potential new town managers as reduced from 29 applicants to three. Six were asked to do interviews, but three of those six withdrew their applications before meeting with the Town Council.

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....