2016-06-17 / Community

My side of the bridge

SoPo city manager’s resignation is telling

In Las Vegas, they simply call it, “the tell.” It is when a poker player provides to others at the table an unintended habit or tip off in their own betting or playing pattern.

This is how one long-time local put it the other day when hearing about Jim Gailey’s resignation as South Portland city manager after nearly 10 years in the top post and about three decades of service to the city. Let’s see. Gailey leaves his dream job in his career prime, from the city he loves, lives in and has cared for his whole life – for an assistant’s title, a pay cut and less bennies, perks and prestige. Now that’s telling.

Yes it is, and four or more members of the South Portland City Council, their uber majority control, and the cloudy, irrational special interests they cater to at all costs can be held accountable. Gailey is way too good a company man and private, diplomatic fellow to ever tell you otherwise, but I don’t find it a reach to think he just got totally fed up with the massive cow dung that had become a constant.

Dealing with Councilors Tom Blake/Patti Smith, and especially Eben Rose/Brad Fox on a daily basis, to go along with a timid, maybe moderate minority took its toll. Gray hair, frustration, lawsuits, lack of respect, even embarrassment for what was and is going down in South Portland don’t make for fun days and short evenings. I would suggest that Gailey did not much care for what the city was becoming and/or more importantly how it was going about it. Blake even suggested such in some press quotes though it is laughable and classic Blake-politico-101 that Mr. Mayor tried to insulate himself as a messenger only.

“Know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run,” blares from the city’s best jukebox at good ol Evelyn’s. This is not to say Gailey was without critique.

However, my problem with Gailey had nothing to do with his personal or professional qualities. He has many and is a nice man who deeply cares about the city. Nor does it have to do with his administrative job performance or his astute managing and hiring of all star quality people (Jon Jennings, Sue Mooney, Tex Haueser and Doug Howard are excellent examples). My issue was all about aggressive leadership, particularly when needed most, during those sticky times from bitumen to bees, and propane gas to hot air emails. He gagged himself and his managers when we all needed them the most. I and many would have preferred a more vocal, opinionated city leader who was willing to stand up and call out an out of control city council (his bosses) even if it cost him his job, and it would have. I think Gailey would have found support and applause in that position, but it was not his demeanor.

Perhaps most telling, I believe the majority of South Portland would trust the ethics, acumen and pure sensibilities of Gailey over the entire current gang of seven. Too bad he could not have fired or forced out a few of them. I do wonder though, as he leaves the table, holding strong with a full house, if he has a smidgen of regret for not being bolder on a hand or two.

This now leaves us with a giant Broadway sized pothole to fill. My hope is the City Council will be amply pestered to hire a highly qualified, intelligent, strong-voiced manager that they welcome to challenge them on issues, debates, and ramifications. They sure need it if the ballot box can’t find it. Geez, wish we knew about Gailey before Jennings left. My fear of course is that they will opt for a Polly-progressive puppet they can push around like peas on a young boy’s plate. They hold the cards, or at least until the voters of South Portland ask for a redeal.

Next month: SP-Cape Housing, Caveat Emptor

I will take a look at the changing demographics of our hometowns, area home valuations, affordable housing in general, and the pros/cons of South Portland becoming Cape Junior while our eroding middle class heads to Westbrook and beyond.

Don Russell is a local real estate sales agent with The Maine Real Estate Network, and founder of BrandME Marketing. He has proudly lived in South Portland for 20 years. Contact him at don@brandme.net or send a letter to the editor to editor@inthesentry.com. His column appears in the Sentry once a month.

Return to top