Jim Bennett is the city manager of Presque Isle, Maine. He has been a member of both ICMA and the Maine Town and City Management Association since 1986, when he began serving as the town manager of Dixfield, Maine. Bennett went on to support Maine’s communities as town manager of New Gloucester, Old Orchard Beach, and Sabattus, as well as city administrator of Westbrook and Lewiston, before joining the community of Presque Isle in 2010.
He earned both his bachelor’s degree and his MBA from the University of Southern Maine, and went on to become an ICMA Credentialed Manager. From the Small Community Task Force to the Conference Planning Committee to the Task Force on Women in the Profession, Bennett has actively engaged with ICMA‘s efforts to serve its members over the years.
From 2008 to 2011, Bennett served on the ICMA Executive Board as a regional vice president and is currently part of the Legacy Leaders program. He received an ICMA Program Excellence Award for Strategic Leadership and Governance in 2006 and again in 2008, along with a 25-Year Service Award in 2011.
When asked about his involvement with ICMA, Bennett says that “ICMA has provided me with a worldwide network of friends that really ‘get it’ when I reach out to them for assistance on any level, including the personal challenges we face in our lives. As an organization, ICMA’s staff makes it the premier location to get technical and professional support. It is ICMA’s members that make it the premier safety net for any challenge that managers and their families may face. Without ICMA, it is easy to think you going it alone, but with ICMA, you never have to face the journey alone.”
“I think the challenges that most managers are facing have roots in the fact that most of the public really does not understand what a municipal or county manager does and, equally important, the role that he or she plays in the success of a well-run community and the residents’ daily lives,” says Bennett. “This is one of the reasons I was so pleased to be able to support the Life, Well Run initiative when I was a member of the ICMA board.”
“The other major challenge is working with the elected leadership of the community and the employees in trying to redefine how our communities are going to continue to provide services with less revenue. The talent that is necessary to successfully assist and lead a community through that dialogue requires the very best of our members.”
“Even when done well, we are finding that some of our colleagues are leaving their employment under duress because there is an unfair sense that changing the manager will somehow change the raw facts that the community is dealing with. Unless we change those trends, we will not attract the most talented and gifted to this profession. Without those talented individuals to serve, we could see both the form of government and the profession erode as other forms of government emerge.”
Bennett encourages both new and seasoned managers to reach to one another in support. “As a new manager, I can distinctly remember the sense that as well prepared as I thought I was, it did not take long on the job before I realized there were so many things that I did not know. Within a week of my starting date, a more seasoned manager from a larger neighboring community stopped by to extend his hand and an invitation to call if I needed anything. All successful municipal managers have at least one of those seasoned veterans that were there for them. When you are first starting out, find a couple of successful managers to adopt as your mentors. They will be flattered by you reaching out and you will gain insight that will serve you throughout your career.”