Augusta’s retired director looks back on 43-year career in city administration
AUGUSTA – William “Bill” Bridgeo, retired city manager, still enjoys his job after a 43 year career in city management which admittedly happened largely by accident.
Bridgeo, 71, from Caribou, was in his twenties when, after his father had a heart attack, he left law school after three semesters to earn money and help his family. He ran into an assistant manager in Killingly, Connecticut.
Its first winter there, the 1978 blizzard struck, trapping people who were brought by snowmobile to a shelter at the local school. Bridgeo was put in charge of running the shelter for a few days until the roads could be reopened. He said the challenge of seeing people at the shelter were safe, warm and fed has spurred a lifelong interest in providing local government services. At the instigation of the director there, Gary Stenhouse, who served as Bridgeo’s mentor, he opted for that Masters of Public Administration which led him to his long career.
“I love my job; I have always loved my job,” he said. “The job of city manager appeals to me by the constant diversity of issues and challenges. Every day, something happens in the community that challenges your intellect. In local government you are so close to the people you serve and the issues you deal with. You see results immediately.
Bridgeo plans to travel with his wife and the couple plan to stay in Augusta, a community that has seen significant changes during his tenure as manager.
A third bridge was built over the Kennebec River, Cony High School, Kennebec Valley YMCA, MaineGeneral Medical Center and Alfond Cancer Center were built, and new development took place at the Marketplace in Augusta and Augusta Crossing, and downtown has undergone revitalization with an influx of residential uses. Important older buildings – including the Old Town Hall, the Cony Flatiron Building, and the Hodgkins and Buker Schools – were also redeveloped. Residents also approved funding to expand and significantly renovate the historic Lithgow Library.
Bridgeo said the library was a special project for him. It was initially rejected by voters, when the proposal was funded almost entirely by local taxes. It was then approved by voters after supporters of the library raised large funds to help pay for the massive expansion and renovation project.
“It’s an example of what the community can do when they come together,” he said.
Bridgeo, who has never taken sick leave since moving to Augusta, is Augusta’s longest-serving city manager.
His last day of work is On Monday. Susan Robertson, director of human resources and deputy city manager, will take over as the search for Bridgeo’s replacement continues.
He said the hardest part of the job was laying off workers during financial downturns, which the city did in 2008 and again a year ago following the coronavirus pandemic.
His regrets about his stay in Augusta are few. He said he wished he had taken steps that could have helped prevent the historic Kennebec Arsenal property from being allowed to remain, undeveloped, after it was sold to a private developer. And he wishes the ground could have been opened for the new police station project, for which voters approved funding in June.
He said he will miss the people he works with the most, praising city councilors and mayors past and present, as well as city staff, for working together and without the negativity seen elsewhere.
His first job as a managing director came to Calais in 1979, after earning his Masters in Public Administration from the University of Hartford.
While working there he met his wife, then Janice Church, originally from Gardiner and working as an elementary school teacher in Princeton. They married in 1984. They left Calais in 1985, after Bridgeo resigned because his relationship with the city council deteriorated due to his selection of a new police chief.
They moved to Hallowell in 1985, where he served as deputy principal of the Maine State Housing Authority, and Janice continued to teach, having a long career at Winthrop Elementary School before her own retirement last year. The work of the housing authority lasted less than two years as it was asked to resign as part of a change of management.
“So my long-suffering wife was married to a guy who lost two jobs in three years,” Bridgeo jokes about this low point in his career path.
In May 1987, he was hired as city manager in Canandaigua, New York, where they moved with their son, Will. They were there 11 years, adding a daughter, Claire, to the family.
In 1998, he flew to Maine for an interview for the post of city manager in Augusta, the night of the devastating ice storm of 1998.
He got the job, defeating 100 other candidates, and officially started in Augusta on April 13, 1998. Although his first day on the job for the city was the previous Friday. The city, at the time, was involved in heated discussions with the state over the removal of the old Edwards Dam, and then City Councilor Dick Dumont wanted Bridgeo to speak for the city in a meeting this Friday. with the then governor. Angus king. The city chartered a plane to transport Bridgeo to Augusta for the meeting with King this Friday.
Coincidentally, King, with whom Bridgeo has formed a relationship, called Bridgeo to wish him well in retirement last week as Bridgeo literally told this story to a reporter.
Bridgeo’s advice to his successor as director of Augusta, as he shared with students who have completed the public administration courses he taught at the University of Maine at Augusta, is to s ” subscribe to a solid code of ethics and respect it.
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