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Portland Mayor's New Assistant Stirs Debate

PORTLAND, Maine - Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling is looking for an assistant, to be paid as much as $70,000 a year. Strimling, the second person elected to the office by popular vote, says the city is in a dynamic period when the mayor and City Council will need help.

"If we're going to implement universal pre-K, invest in city-wide broadband, create targeted property tax relief programs, all of these initiatives that we talked about," Strimling says, "having a senior policy person who can really help to navigate the waters and help develop legislation for the council and the mayor is an imperative part of the process."

Strimling says the city manager found money in the city's existing budget to fund the position through the end of the fiscal year. But after that, Strimling says a new position will need to be voted on by the full City Council.

One former councilor tells the Portland Press Herald that Strimling should "squelch" the idea. Cheryl Leeman says it feeds the perception that the mayor's office will unduly burden taxpayers.