Published Date Written by Barbara TetreaultBERLIN – Former City Engineer and Public Works Director James Wheeler will become Berlin's new city manager.
Mayor Paul Grenier and the city council made the announcement at last night's work session. Wheeler will come on board full-time on June 1. Current City Manager Patrick MacQueen will stay to help with the transition but will retire by the end of the summer.
Grenier said he was honored to announce the selection of Wheeler, noting the new city manager grew up Berlin, worked for the city, and has children in the Berlin school system.
Wheeler said most of his career has been in the public sector and he has missed serving the public since leaving the city.
He praised MacQueen, noting he has been city manager during very lean years but still managed to plant some seeds of growth for the city.
"I know I'm going to have big shoes to fill," Wheeler said.
Wheeler said he expects to spend a lot of time in the immediate future studying and getting up to date with the work that has been done by MacQueen and city staff. He said he hopes for as seamless transition as possible and to continue initiatives underway.
In his letter applying for the position, Wheeler said he brings skills and experience that uniquely qualify him for the position. But he said what sets him apart from other candidates is his "personal mission to contribute to the economic growth and position of Berlin and the North Country."
Wheeler grew up in the Berlin area and graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in civil engineering in 1986. After working as a project engineer for Whitman & Howard, Wheeler returned to his hometown to take the position of city engineer in 1994. Four years later he also assumed the role of public works director when his father, Maurice Wheeler, retired.
In June 2005, Wheeler left the city to become director of facilities at Androscoggin Valley Hospital. Five years ago, he was promoted to vice president of strategic management and human resources at AVH. In 2011, Wheeler noted the hospital was named one of the Best Companies to Work For by Business NH Magazine. While at AVH, he earned his master's degree in management.
When Wheeler left the city to go to AVH, city officials publicly stated they were sad to see him go. MacQueen said city government was losing "one heck of a fine asset".
Grenier, then a city councilor, recalled there was a debate back in 1994 over hiring Wheeler for city engineer because his father was public works director. Grenier said the council was worried the hiring would open it up to charges of nepotism. But in the end, Grenier said the council decided Wheeler's qualifications earned him the job.
MacQueen notified the council last fall that he intended to retire by September 2013. The council enlisted the services of Primex in setting up a process to hire a new city manager. The position was advertised and the city
received 41 applications. A council subcommittee narrowed the number to five semi-finalists who were interviewed over two days earlier this month.