New employee takes on human resources tasks in Westbrook

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WESTBROOK — A former human resources manager in the state attorney general’s office will start work next week in the revamped role of assistant city administrator.

Stephen N. Fields will focus on human resources rather than being responsible for economic and community development as past assistant city administrators were.

Fields, who will make $91,991, was chosen from a field of 21 applicants.

“Given the expanded scope of responsibilities for this position, the city is very fortunate to have attracted someone with both the depth and diversity of Stephen’s qualifications, skills and experience,” City Administrator Jerre Bryant said in a media release

The City Council restructured the Human Resource Department this spring after the School Department discontinued the human resources agreement it had with the city for nine years. The school district established its own human resources department and hired Martha Sumner to lead that operation.

Jennifer Ogden had been the city’s human resources director before she was placed on administrative leave last fall and left the employment of the city in the spring.

A new version of the assistant city administrator job was created earlier this year to stabilize the human resources department, city officials said.  

In his position with the city, Fields will oversee the city’s human resources needs, as well as provide management and support for municipal services and operations.

For the first six months, Bryant said, he expects Fields to be focused solely on human resources, including making performance evaluations more uniform across municipal departments and encouraging employees to participate in training.

“We have been without a full-time director for close to a year now and he sort of needs to rebuild and reestablish that department,” said Bryant, who since this spring has been serving as the acting human resources director.

Fields, who most recently worked as the human resources manager in the state Attorney General’s Office, said he sought the job because he wanted to get back into municipal work and because of the “uniqueness of the position.”

Bryant said Fields has human resources experience in the city of Biddeford, the Raymond, New Hampshire, School Department, Fidelity Employee Services in Manchester, New Hampshire, and the town of Andover, Massachusetts. Fields also has an extensive military background serving part time in the Air National Guard from 1989 to 2007 and full time from 2007 to 2017.

Because of Fields’ background in military logistics and management, Bryant says he sees him focusing on internal issues that arise on the municipal side, “a logical extension of (human resources).” Other job duties will be added “based on his strengths, interest and our needs,” he said.

Fields said he is looking forward to working with Bryant, who he called “one of the premier and best city administrators in the area.”

A Bangor resident, Fields plans to relocate to Gray this fall.

He is the first assistant city administrator Westbrook has had since John Wipfler stepped down a year ago. Wipfler was hired on an interim basis following the May 2016 resignation of former assistant city administrator for community and business relations Bill Baker, who is now chief of police in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Baker was hired as the city’s first assistant city administrator in 2012.

Rather than hire another assistant city administrator to focus on community and business relations, the city in October 2017 hired Daniel Stevenson to lead its economic development efforts.

Fields is not the only recent new employee of the city. On Monday, the city council appointed Dena Marie Lebeda as the city’s tax collector. Lebeda replaces Jordan Shelbourne, who stepped down after two years to take the position of controller for the city of South Portland.

For the last 17 years, Lebeda, who has a bachelor’s degree from Husson University,  has served as the field advisor and examiner for the Maine Department of Labor’s Bureau of Unemployment Compensation. Prior to that, she was a staff accountant at Maine Department of Corrections’ Long Creek Youth Development Center.

Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 125 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews.

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