DERRY— The two men vying to become town administrator each say that their ability to work with others is a key part of their approach to management.
On such topics as economic development and unions, the two finalists for the vacant post fielded a variety of questions at a public forum Thursday night.
Finalists Richard Brown, of Massachusetts, and Stephen Eldridge, of Maine, made brief presentations and answered questions from audience members at the Municipal Center.
The two were chosen from a field of 76 and want to fill the vacancy left by the exit of Town Administrator John Anderson.
In his opening remarks, Brown said he has about 38 years of local government experience. He is the town administrator in Freetown, Mass.
Brown said he already knew his career calling before he went to college.
“This was all I ever wanted to do,” Brown said. “I went to college and knew that I wanted to major in government.”
Brown told the audience he doesn’t have all the answers but does understand government processes and how to work with people, organizations and to make changes. He said his primary mission is to improve a town government’s quality of service.
“I’m not here to build monuments,” he said. “I’m not here to enhance my resume. I’m not here to stroke my ego. I’m here to provide service and that’s it in a nutshell.”
During the question and answer session, Brown was asked how he could work with town councils when members can have differing opinions and conflicting goals.
Brown drew some laughter from the audience when he said managing town councils can be “like herding cats.”
Despite dealing with strong personalities and people who are often determined to get their own way, Brown said he has succeeded in resolving differences and finding common ground with many of the councils he’s worked with in the past.
When asked about economic development and how to be proactive, Brown said the community has to decide whether it wants to implement such strategies as bringing in big box stores or to concentrating on the downtown.
“I can give you all sorts of ideas, but my ideas don’t mean as much as the ideas of the community,” Brown said.
In his opening remarks, Eldridge said he has been working in local government administration for the past 15 years. He said he is now serving as interim town manager of Bethel, Maine, a town of about 2,500 people.
He previously worked in Lisbon, Maine, as town manager from 2008 to January. He had 75 employees under him in a town with a population of about 9,000.
Eldridge said his management style is inclusive, and he strives to provide as much information as possible. He said he has worked with councils in the past that have had divergent viewpoints. In Lisbon, he was challenged with trying to turn around a town hit by blight and other economic problems.
Eldridge was also asked about examples from his prior jobs of how he had succeeded in increasing economic development. During a stint as a manager in Greene, Maine, Eldridge said he worked with developers to sell the community.
In Rumford, Maine, he said he worked on a project involving the redevelopment of a vacant shopping plaza. Through networking and making the right connections, the plaza was eventually filled and the last tenant came in just before he left.
For generating economic development in communities like Derry, he said “You’ve got to get value in the ground and you’ve got to get the people here and you’ve got to market your community as the place to come and the reasons why.”
Former Derry Town Administrator Anderson was charged with lewdness and indecent exposure in August following an alleged incident at his house on July 11 involving a DirectTV salesman. In October, he was discharged by the town.