Magazine article Public Management

Trio's Friendship Has Benefits for Three Towns They Manage

Magazine article Public Management

Trio's Friendship Has Benefits for Three Towns They Manage

Article excerpt

Topsham (Maine) Town Manager Larry Cilley buried his head in his hands and muttered, "Oh God." Ten minutes later, Cilley's counterpart, Bath City Manager Duncan Ballantyne, was turning red. In between, Ballantyne, Cilley, and Brunswick Town Manager Don Gerrish chuckled and elbowed each other.

The three are friends, good friends. Their families know each other. The three go to dinner with their wives in a pack of six, and the men hug when they meet. "We have an absolute, rock-solid, no-questions kind of trust," said Ballantyne.

It's a union that increasingly is rubbing off on municipal policy. Last month at a meeting of the three towns' elected leaders, Gerrish said that the gathering was a direct spinoff of their friendship. The meeting was the first step toward creating a council of governments among the three towns, making them more likely to receive federal money. It also would build a foundation for greater sharing of services.

It was just the next logical step, said Cilley. The friendship was also responsible for the creation of the Mid-Coast Council for Business Development, a two-year-old union aimed at courting businesses to locate in Bath, Brunswick, and Topsham. "The communities were ready for it. There aren't three white knights here," said Ballantyne. All three were careful not to overplay the role of their friendship in the growing unity. All agreed that the relationship among them is unique and helps them do their jobs more effectively. "We do it because we're professionals, and we do it because we're friends," Ballantyne said.

When Cilley suffered a massive heart attack last winter, eventually forcing him to undergo open heart surgery, Ballantyne and Gerrish both offered to help. …

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