LENOX -- It was a close call, but Town Manager Gregory Federspiel signed his new three-year contract with Lenox on Friday after he nearly landed a comparable post in Ipswich.
He told The Eagle that he was approached by a headhunter earlier this spring as the North Shore town of close to 14,000 people began a search that ultimately yielded two finalists -- Federspiel and the town manager of Longmeadow, Roberta "Robin" Crosbie. On Monday night, Selectmen in Ipswich offered her the position, the Salem News reported.
They voiced uniform praise for Federspiel but determined that Crosbie would be "a better fit" for the town because of its similarities to Long meadow. "Either one could have been a strong and useful town manager," said Ipswich Select Board Chairman Bill Craft.
Ipswich officials visited Lenox and Longmeadow recently to sound out people’s views on the candidates. "We heard nothing but positive things," Selectman Patrick McNally said.
Federspiel acknowledged that he was intrigued by the potential offer, which would have offered more money and support from the town’s chief financial officer and human resources director. In Lenox, Federspiel performs those functions in addition to overall management.
Other attractions included proximity to the ocean -- "I love the water," he said -- and to family members who live in eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Asked what he would have decided if the offer had come from Ipswich, Federspiel replied, "It would have been a very hard decision if it had come to that. I’d rather not speculate; there were pros and cons both ways. But I’m very comfortable with the outcome."
He said exploration of the Ipswich post helped "crystallize some of the things I want to and need to do as a manager."
The Lenox Selectmen were aware of the interest from Ipswich, Federspiel said.
Acknowledging that the past year of his 13-year tenure was "more difficult because of the passions involved," he said that the disputes that roiled town government were "not a big factor -- I wasn’t out there pounding the pavement, but when they came knocking, it was a good time to take a look."
Even in a smooth year, Federspiel said, he would have had the same interest in exploring another opportunity for career reasons after a long run in one town.
But, he emphasized, "I’m happy to be continuing on here. There’s a lot of work to do and I’m looking forward to it -- this has helped me reflect and given me renewed energy to make some adjustments."
He said he wants to make sure he’s fostering a good sense of teamwork with the Town Hall staff, "so we’re all going in the same direction. We’ve got an excellent group of public employees, and I have a sense that we can all do even better."
Federspiel and the town’s police chief, Stephen O’Brien, and fire chief, Daniel Clifford, each received 3 percent raises for the first year of their new three-year contracts. Raises for the second and third years are still to be determined, given the state of the economy, Feder spiel explained.
His new contract, effective July 1, pays $111,800.
Federspiel said he’s very appreciative of the support and understanding he has received as he explored the Ipswich possibility.
Select Board Chairman Kenneth Fowler told The Eagle the town "came as close as you can get" to losing its manager. He emphasized that the three-year contract offer announced publicly at the June 6 Select Board meeting was already in the works before the Ipswich factor surfaced.
"We had already made the decision to move forward with the contract," he said. "When we found out he was being wooed by Ipswich, it was a little unsettling. He told me he was torn since he and the Selectmen were working very well together, that things were clicking and moving forward. We’ve discussed how difficult a decision it would have been for him."
Acknowledging that he "would have been happy for Greg’s sake for him to have moved on and up a notch with a higher salary," Fowler said "this is the best thing that could happen to Lenox, to have Greg here for the next three years."
Selectman David Roche told The Eagle he’s "absolutely delighted" with the outcome. "I’m really happy with his performance, there was never any discussion about not renewing his contract," said Roche.
"I wasn’t as big a fan before I became a selectman, but working closely with him, walking in his shoes and seeing what he’s up against, I really appreciate him," Roche added.
To reach Clarence Fanto:
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