CUMBERLAND — Cumberland’s town manager has stepped down from his post amid a battle he was leading to save a historic church in the area.
Andrew Klinger, who is resigning to take the town manager position in Plainfield, said he regrets not being able to pursue the project to save the St. John United Church of Christ, but added he is confident town officials can figure out some way to save the structure from being demolished.
Klinger has served as the point person in discussions between town officials and the church, whose members have struggled trying to sell the building they say is in desperate need of repairs they can’t afford.
Klinger, whose resignation is effective Sept. 14, had been a key figure in representing the town, which has fought the church’s plans to demolish the building.
Klinger led the charge, arguing the historic church was a gateway to the town of Cumberland and has the potential to be part of a multi-use development at the area.
Town officials are expected to present a plan to church officials Monday in hopes of saving the old structure, which the congregation plans to raze so the land can be sold.
The Rev. Jimmy Watson, pastor at St. John’s, said he hopes Klinger’s absence won’t prompt town officials to delay the process.
“I don’t think my church people would be too interested in doing anything but what they’re already doing, which is getting ready to move,” he said. “We’ll find out soon enough.”
The town’s planning and development director, Christine Owens, and council President Joe Siefker will take over Klinger’s duties on the church project and other responsibilities until a replacement can be found, Klinger said.
Siefker said town officials have put together a search committee to replace Klinger, whose position in 2014 paid $70,751.
Klinger said he will help with the process.
“I’ve kind of put out some feelers to some people to see if they might be interested,” Klinger said. “I am going to do my best to help them find a good candidate to step in here.”
Klinger has served as Cumberland’s town manager since July 2013. Prior to coming to Cumberland, he served in state and local government in a variety of roles including economic developer, strategic planner and attorney.
Officials anticipate the search process for his replacement will take at least two months, Siefker said, noting the town already has several résumés on hand from when Klinger applied.
Klinger said he wasn’t looking for a new job; he added he was happy working for Cumberland but is looking forward to a new opportunity. In 2014, the Plainfield town manager position paid more than $100,000.
“When the third-largest town in the state wants to have you as their town manager, it is kind of a hard deal to pass up,” Klinger said.
Klinger said his wife’s parents live in the Plainfield area, and he plans to move there as soon as possible. However, he admits it will be hard leaving what he calls a unique town.
“I really was pretty happy here, and while there are a lot of unique issues in this community, we were making headway, and that is hard to leave,” Klinger said. “Our staff had really been coming together, and I was proud of that.”