2016-12-09 / Community

New town manager takes the reins

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

Mike Pardue takes the oath of office as Kennebunk Town Manager, as issued by Town Clerk Merton Brown, left, in the lobby of town hall, Dec. 1. (Video Creations courtesy photo) Mike Pardue takes the oath of office as Kennebunk Town Manager, as issued by Town Clerk Merton Brown, left, in the lobby of town hall, Dec. 1. (Video Creations courtesy photo) KENNEBUNK — The long transition to a new town manager in Kennebunk got underway last week, with the swearing in of Mike Pardue.

Described as a “town manager for a period not to exceed 18 months,” rather than as an interim town manager, Pardue, 60, takes over for longtime town manager Barry Tibbetts, who chose not to renew his contract. Pardue will serve until June 30, 2018, during which time he will lead the search for a permanent replacement.

Pardue will make $2,124 per week until June 30, 2017, at which time his pay will jump to $2,186 per week, or $113,672 for the year. Tibbetts, who is out on medical leave, will remain on staff as assistant manager, then as a consultant, though the end of his current contract period in June.

While the long transition period is a bit unusual, Pardue is no stranger to town hall. He has previously served Kennebunk as director of police services, interim director of public services, and human resources director, while he has prepared extensive reports, though his management consulting company, The Tideview Group, on the operations of the both the police and highway departments, as well as a strategic plan for the fire department.

On Monday, Dec. 5, Pardue sat down for an interview to introduce himself to Post readers who may yet be unfamiliar with his record, and to outline his plans for the coming 18 months.

Q: How long have you lived in Kennebunk?

A: I came to Kennebunk in 1993. My wife and I and three kids came from Connecticut. Prior to that I had made a little bit of a circuit though the country. I was born in New Orleans, but left there at age 2. My dad was a vice president with Hartford Insurance Company. So, as we moved from office to office, we traveled around, until he moved to the home office in Hartford, Connecticut. So, that’s what brought me to the East Coast, where I met my wife Karen as a junior in high school. I’m proud to say we’ve been together ever since. We have three adult children, two boys and a daughter, with two grandchildren and a third on the way. Being a grandparent is, to me, one of the best things that a person can experience.

Q: Where did you get your education, and what did you do for a career before coming to Maine?

A: I went to Bentley College down in Boston and graduated actually from Westfield State in Massachusetts with a criminal justice degree. I’ve done some additional studies at Hartford School of Business, which I undertook for my role as chairman of the board for Northeast Delta Dental insurance. I went into law enforcement in my early 20s down in Connecticut, working at two different departments down there. I left there after 15 years when I had the opportunity to become the police chief in Ogunquit, at which time we moved to Kennebunk. There were about 128 applicants for that position, as I remember, and I was very fortunate to have been selected.

Q: Why did you want to take a job in Maine?

A: I was very much looking for the quality of life that Maine offers. At the time my oldest child was in sixth grade and my wife and I knew Maine was the type of community and environment we wanted to raise our children in. We’ve enjoyed every moment of it. It’s been a great experience for our family. It’s the way life should be, to coin a phrase.

Q: And why did you pick Kennebunk over any other place you might have settled?

A: There were several reasons. First and foremost was the quality of the school system. My wife is an educator — she’s currently a dean in the college of health professions at the University of New England — so, we had carefully evaluated the schools available in this immediate area. Then the community itself was extremely appealing to us, both for the culture of the town itself and because it was close to my work in Ogunquit and my wife’s in Biddeford. It was just a perfect scenario.

Q: How did you transition from police work to municipal management?

A: I was on the Ogunquit PD for less than a year when the town manager there left and they asked if I would serve as interim town manager as well as the police chief, and I did. And then they made it a permanent position. I was then town manager and police chief for a number of years in a combined position. That was a very, very unique position, to serve in both capacities at the same time, but it was a wonderful experience, will tremendously supportive personnel, both as employees and selectpeople. So, it worked very effectively.

Q: Why did you leave that job?

A: In 1999 I was offered a position as a global project manager with a telecommunications firm named the Atlas Group. My job with them was to manage performance on a global platform, overseeing quality standards and all of our contractual obligations. That required, as you might imagine, a significant amount of travel. And the travel really got to be too extensive for me, because my kids at that point were in middle and high school, and I’m very committed to family, and to being part of all the things they had going on. They came up through Kennebunk schools and my commitment was to attend all of their events. I wanted to be a part of that and watch them grow up. So I did just a couple of years in that position [at Atlas] when I decided I wanted to go out on my own. So, I established a management consulting firm.

Q: That would be the Tideview Group. What did you do there?

A: I established it as Central Intelligence and we did a lot of internal investigations for corporations and municipalities. But then it transitioned to more of a management consulting firm, so I changed the name. We did a lot of assessments of corporations and municipalities that are looking for an external evaluation, often in preparation to a restructuring. So, we provide the suggestions for streamlining operations and, in many cases, are asked to provide the implementation support for that retooling. We’ve done a number of interim management engagements, in which I personally have served as a town manager, or police chief.

Q: And that includes a time in Kennebunk, correct?

A: Yes. I was director of police services from January 2006 to July 2007. My firm had done an assessment of the police department and identified 43 areas where we recommended some change or redesign — some initiatives to follow. The then police chief took the position of chief deputy of York County Sheriff’s Department, and so Barry Tibbetts asked if I would be willing to head up the police department and implement each of those recommendations that our firm has proposed. I said yes. The commute was certainly wonderful, but the opportunity to shape the department was very appealing. They had and continue to have a tremendously qualified staff, so that was appealing, too, but they had some challenges then within the supervisory levels and with a lack of effective communication and other organizational challenges. But the staff was incredibly supportive and allowed the changes to take place relatively quickly. As I recall, we implanted 42 of 43 recommended changes in less than a year. I was pleased to assist the town in the recruitment of Chief Bob MacKenzie, who still remains.

Q: Your firm prepared a similar report in 2015 of the public services department, and a casual reader of that document might find it to be highly critical of the operation of the department at that time. A year in, what is your confidence level that the recommended changes have been made there?

A: From what I have seen, a number of those have been implemented. They now have two mechanics for work process and safety. An administrative assistant was been brought on a few months ago. We identified that there were some issues related to some antiquated equipment. I think the town has made significant strides to improve that, and we are working on enhancing communication flow from the director through the employees and finding ways to enhance the level of communication. There do remain a few items within the report that we will be advancing, a few that remain to be addressed, and we will be doing that. Certainly, in my new role as town manager I will have more oversight in assisting [Public Services Director] Eric Labelle in implementing those changes. Obviously, one of the things we are now turning our attention to is improvement of the physical plant itself. That’s something we will be looking at going forward.

Q: Earlier this year you came on as an interim human resources director, a position that became permanent in June. Why take on the town manger role for a limited time?

A: The reason I did that, and selectmen collectively agreed to that, was so that I would be in a position to develop a candidate profile for the next manager, and really identify what that person will look like who we hope would be coming in to serve as a long-term town manager. Searching for key people of that nature is not something a community wants to repeat every two or three years, if possible.

Q: A you interested in landing that position?

A: I’m focused on helping the town find that next person. I believe that is where I am best able to help the town. I will work diligently over the next 18 months as if I was going to be there for the next 30 years. I never come into a role as a placeholder. That’s not my style. But I think I can help the town identify who the right candidate will be. We have a provision in my contract that if we find someone before June 2018, I revert back to the HR director. But I think the sense was that we are rolling right into the budget process, and that will take us right through April. So, a lot of time and attention won’t be able to be given to go through the recruitment process. To meet a June 2017 mark would be awfully aggressive and probably not attainable.

Q: Does the Tideview Group still exist, or has it been put on a shelf?

A: It still exists with a few contract consultants that I use, but it is very quiet, quite honestly. All of my attention is focused on the town of Kennebunk. And that’s by my choice. This job requires every bit of 60 hours per week and I am dedicated to giving every bit of that.

Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges for Kennebunk and what are your goals to achieve?

A: There’s no question that fiscal responsibility and good fiduciary management of the public’s money is hugely important. We have a responsibility to always make sure we are controlling spending in a manner that allows us to deliver superior services in the most cost effective way possible. So, that’s an evaluation that takes place within every department, virtually every day. We must be good stewards of the people’s money. We also want to get processes, policies, procedures, and training to the most contemporary level that we can, so that we can shelter ourselves from as much liability exposure as possible. That’s very important. So, those wheels are in motion as we speak. And we have the issues related to the [Mousam] dams. We have a guiding vote of the citizens in hand to go forward and we are in the planning stages of that now. That’s what I spent my first day Friday, and the weekend on, working to come up with an approach that might be able to identify how to effectively address the dams and how, as a community, we will go forward.

Q: Is there an endgame in mind on the dams?

A: No, I do not at this moment have a goal. We just want to identify what avenues are available to the community and then work through what the best course of action might be. Right now it is all about setting up a process for how to come to a resolution, to make sure we have the best communication possible between all parties. That’s the first step, to work collaboratively to address the matter at hand, and that’s really what we are working on.

Q: Speaking of collaboration, how to you envision your working relationship with Barry Tibbetts, who remains on staff through June?

A: I see this as a tremendous opportunity for all of us to work collaboratively to achieve a number of projects that we have underway. Barry will be instrumental in the budget development. And then, we’re looking at ways he can aid our economic development, and coming to common ground on how to approach the dams. From there, I’ll look and see what ways we can use to draw on his skill set and institutional knowledge. He will remain available to us 40 hours per week.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say to readers of the Post?

A: I can only stress my commitment to leading from the front, while seeking input from citizens and staff. That’s vital. I very much believe in doing the public’s business in public. I look forward to sharing everything that I can. And, of course, I can’t say enough about the quality of personnel that serves this community. The longstanding tenure of so many speaks volumes. We have about 65 full-time, but a full compliment of 307 counting seasonal employees. My management approach is very much and old school philosophy of management by walking around. That’s important to me. I know a lot of people already, having lived in town for almost 25 years, but I intend to meet every single person on staff, to know their needs and concerns, as well as the needs and concerns of our residents, our business community, and to do everything I can to address those concerns. I’m honored to have been asked to serve in this position and pledge to perform my duties with tireless energies and commitment to this town.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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