2017-05-26 / Community

Pardue picked for permanent post

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — In Kennebunk, the word is new boss, same as the old boss.

When Michael Pardue was tapped to be Kennebunk Town Manager last fall, it was on a temporary basis. Though not described as an interim manager, his hiring was announced with the caveat that it was “for a period not to exceed 18 months.”

The idea was that Pardue would bridge the gap between long-time town manager Barry Tibbetts, who went out on sick leave in early December, having already announced he would not seek to renew his contract past its June 30 end date.

As a former former town manager himself, with years of experience consulting on municipal issues — including stepping in to aid Kennebunk on three prior occasions — Pardue was pitched as someone who could bridge the gap between Tibbetts and the next permanent manager, with expertise that would prove invaluable to both keeping the ship of state sailing straight, and helping selectmen find just the right captain.

Now, selectmen have decided they had the right man all along.

Following a special meeting in executive session May 16, selectmen signed Pardue to a three-year contract, to June 30, 2020.

In a prepared press release, board chairman Dick Morin said he and his peers reached the decision to hire Pardue following their assessment of his interaction with staff, residents and the business community.

“From the very moment he assumed office, Mike has had a plateful of challenging issues to navigate,” he wrote. “Mike immediately had to delve into the budget, navigate the emotional topic of dams, dogs, and now marijuana. These can be polarizing issues for a community, yet Mike has been able to professionally, and very adeptly, guide the town through these topics.”

In more off the cuff comments in an email accompanying the release, Morin wrote, “He has done very well thus far and the costs of recruitment and hiring [somebody else] would be a waste.

“We have the guy we want to run the town. Our future is in great hands,” Morin said.

Under the new contract, to start July 1, Pardue will be paid $125,000 per year — a 10 percent increase over the $113,672 he was hired at, and an 11.6 percent increase over the $112,000 Tibbetts was making when he left the town after nearly 20 years at the helm.

According to Selectman Christopher Cluff, Pardue did decline the $500 per month vehicle allowance Tibbetts had enjoyed.

The contract also ensures the board is OK with Pardue simultaneously serving as the chair of Northeast Delta Dental’s board of directors. Cluff said town attorney William Dale also is drafting a “side letter” with a “non-compete” clause, which will ban Pardue from recruiting town employees to his consulting firm, The Tideview Group, for 12 months after he leaves employment with the town.

“The board and Mike have yet to sign this, but it should be coming at a future meeting,” Cluff wrote in a May 22 email to the Post, adding in a follow-up that the contract does not allow Pardue to take on consulting work for other towns while running Kennebunk.

“There is a provision that allows him to speak for a fee, but not consult as he was before,” Cluff wrote. “We are not truly concerned about Mike poaching employees because this is very likely his last stop before retirement, but we wanted to get it into the contract for the next manager we need to write a contract for. If we get a young gun in as the next manager who is trying to build his/her empire and move on to the next conquest, we do not want that person poaching our employees in their quest for greatness. This provision is more for future planning than present concern.”

Prior to taking on the manager’s job in December, Pardue,

60, served Kennebunk as director of police services, interim director of public services, and human resources director. Through The Tideview Group, he prepared extensive in-house reports on the operations of both the police and highway departments, while also crafting a strategic plan for the fire department.

Born in New Orleans and raised mostly in Connecticut, Pardue graduated from Westfield State University in Massachusetts with a criminal justice degree. He entered law enforcement out of college, logging 15 years in Connecticut before moving to Maine in 1993 to become chief of police in Ogunquit, beating out 128 applicants for the job.

Less than a year into that job, Pardue was tapped to serve as interim town manager when the previous office-holder left, ultimately turning that into duel manager/police chief role for several years. Then, in 1999, Pardue was offered a position as global project manager with a telecommunications firm named the Atlas Group.

However, with his kids in middle school and the job requiring excessive worldwide travel, Pardue came home and established The Tideview Group. Initially called Central Intelligence, the firm performed internal investigations for corporations and municipalities before transitioning into a management consulting firm, working for many towns, including Kennebunk.

“He has served in the municipal sector as a town manager, town administrator, chief of police, fire chief, director of public safety and director of public services,” Morin said. “Mr. Pardue’s knowledge of each of these municipal functions meets our candidate profile as well as anyone possibly could. In addition, he has managed private sector projects on a global platform, while managing personnel across the globe. And, he is a longtime resident of Kennebunk. We could not have found a more perfect candidate to permanently fill the position of town manager for Kennebunk.”

Prior to stepping up to the town manager job, Pardue was serving as human resources director for the town, having been brought on in his consulting capacity when the previous director moved on, then asked to take the job on a regular basis. His short-term manager contract allowed him to return to that role once a permanent manager was named. However, now that he is full-time town manager, Pardue said be plans to seek out a new HR director.

Pardue said he is not yet decided on hiring an assistant town manager.

“Designating a ‘No. 2’ person to act on my behalf in my absence is a decision I will be considering in the future,” he wrote in a May 22 email to the Post. “I am continuing to evaluate the organizational structure, to include the duties and responsibilities associated with each division director position. A component of that evaluation is to assesses the workload of each division director, while ensuring there is an appropriate separation of duties. At this time, staff and the board of selectmen is aware that I am available to them 24/7 for any questions and/or concerns that may arise.”

Tibbetts, who has been operating as an assistant manager, and since April 1 as a consultant, will end his employment with the town June 30.

“The past five months has given me, staff and the board of selectmen the opportunity to determine that there is a good ‘fit’ among us all,” Pardue said, when asked what made him want to take on the manger’s role for the duration. “During this same period, the board of selectmen and I have worked closely on numerous challenging issues. This five-month ‘window’ gave us all the opportunity to realize that the synergy between all entities is strong and that teamwork and communication, both internal and external, is excellent. When the leadership of the board of selectmen approached me to gauge my interest in a multi-year contract to serve as the permanent town manager, I was honored and pleased. I feel it is a privilege to be selected to lead the town as its manager and to have three (or more) years to work alongside the great staff and board of selectmen that serve.”

Now that the job is his for the long haul, Pardue said his main concern is operational efficiency.

“I am continually evaluating the operational effectiveness of the organization to insure we are delivering quality service in the most efficient and cost effective manner possible,” he said. “I am working to ensure staff is not working in ‘silos,’ but instead engaged in shared work efforts. I believe this approach enhances the level and quality of service delivery, while limiting duplication of job functions. If instances of operational ineffectiveness are identified, changes will be made to ensure quality service delivery in a fiscally responsible manner.

“As goals and projects are considered, topics that top the list, and in no prioritized order at this moment, include dams, dogs on the beach, the potential impact of the legalization of recreational marijuana on our community, the advancement of a strategic plan, the progression of the renovation of the public services / transfer site — which is, of course, contingent upon voter approval in June — and evaluating and improving our infrastructure, to include roads and facilities. These items are just a few of the many initiatives that are ongoing.

“I wish to note as well that it is important to me that the collaboration between our neighboring communities, the RSU and our utility providers is strengthened,” Pardue said, in listing his work goals. “I value the relationship with each of these entities and firmly believe that as we grow our partnerships, the stakeholders affiliated with each of the respective organizations benefit from such efforts.”

In order to achieve those goals, Pardue said his focus for the next three years will rest solely on Kennebunk.

“I believe to successfully perform the duties and responsibilities of town manager, one should be ‘all in.’ With that, I will be closing The Tideview Group, allowing me to commit my full attention to Kennebunk and my family,” he said.

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

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