NAPLES — Mitch Berkowitz will be doing double duty as an interim manager for both Naples and Jackman during the month of February.
Berkowitz, who has served as interim manager in Naples since late November, has also been hired on an interim basis by the Jackman Selectboard.
Jackman recently fired its previous manager, Tom Kawczynski, after the town received national attention for online comments Kawcynski made about race and culture.
“Mitch has helped us in the past and has agreed to come back to Jackman again,” said Jayme French, chair of the Jackman Selectboard, in a press release announcing Berkowitz’ hiring.
It’s a back to the future moment of sorts for Berkowitz, who has served as interim manager in Jackman twice before.
“I feel something special for the town,” Berkowitz said.
Berkowitz, who lives in Gray, said in his previous stint with Jackman, he helped in the manager search that eventually settled on Kawczynski.
Berkowitz said he met Kawcynski during the hiring process and was “surprised and disappointed” by the now former manager’s online posts that have come to light.
Berkowitz said he considered Kawcynski’s posts “white supremacist” and “extreme,” and while Kawcynski had a “right to speak his mind, privately,” Berkowitz emphasized that “public municipal management requires the trust of the community and its residents.”
Kawcynski has since addressed reporters and posted online, asserting he is not a racist and his views have been misrepresented by the media. Kawcynski has referenced fighting for what he calls “white civil rights.”
When asked about his previous role in researching Kawcynski’s background, Berkowitz said he did conduct a rudimentary online search and did not come across anything like the posts that recently received criticism.
“He really did not have a digital footprint,” Berkowitz said about Kawcynski’s online presence when the initial search was conducted.
Also a former town manager in Gray and Bridgton, Berkowitz said he will be careful to separate his two roles in Naples and Jackman.
As he has in Naples, Berkowitz plans to do some of the Jackman managerial work remotely. His interim position in Naples is slated to end in late February when newly selected manager John Hawley begins his full-time role.
Naples Selectboard Chairman Jim Grattelo said Tuesday that when Berkowtiz took the Naples interim job, Berkowitz made it clear he may be doing additional work for other towns. Grattelo said Berkowitz gave him a heads up about the Jackman job.
“There’s nothing wrong with the timing at all,” Grattelo said.
Berkowitz said he did not feel Naples officials needed to sign-off on his new role in Jackman, given that both involve billable work that he is confident he can keep separate.
Naples Selectman Richard Cebra, who is also a state representative, appeared unaware of Berkowitz’s return to Jackman when asked about it Monday night, but was confident Berkowtiz was up to the task.
“He’s a real pro,” Cebra said of Berkowitz. “If he didn’t think he could handle it, he wouldn’t do it.”
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
Naples interim Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz, left, is also serving as interim manager in Jackman after that town’s previous manager was fired recently.