LENOX -- On a dark and stormy night, all five volunteers on the local Town Manager Search Committee forged ahead on round two of their mission, narrowing down a group nine promising candidates to a field of six semi-finalists.
The Town Hall meeting, which lasted three and a half hours on Thursday evening, was held behind closed doors, according to provisions of the state's open meeting law that allow for confidentiality until the final phase of the search.
Committee Chairman Jay Carberry told The Eagle on Friday that all nine applications were re-examined, with special attention to the candidates' detailed responses to essay questions.
"The essays were better, on average, than the ones we had last time," he commented. "We've got some good people."
The reopened recruitment effort attracted more than 40 applicants last month who responded to ads placed by Municipal Resources, Inc. The search focused on candidates with seven years or more of "progressive management and leadership experience" in the New England Town Meeting form of government.
Salary for the Lenox post was listed as $100,000 or more, along with standard health insurance, retirement, vacation, relocation and other benefits. The job has been open since June 21, when Gregory Federspiel departed the post for a similar position in Manchester-by-the-Sea on the North Shore.
The committee's next step will be to set a date for in-person interviews with the six favorites, also in executive session. Then, the group will come up with three finalists to be interviewed by the Select Board in a public meeting.
All nine applicants reviewed on Thursday night are based in New England, including four from Massachusetts, said Carberry.
The local committee is working with Municipal Resources, Inc., a Meredith, N.H., government-services firm which provides headhunter guidance for communities across New England.
The overall quality of the candidates under evaluation is "comparable to the first round, maybe slightly better," Carberry commented.
"The essays help a lot," Carberry said, "but for me, the real thing is to see the people. When you really see them, it changes your outlook."
The committee reopened the search last month after the first-round choice, assistant Avon, Conn., Town Manager Steve Bartha, withdrew from contract negotiations with the Select Board last August, citing differences over benefits and perks.
Now, the search team is moving ahead at full speed, Carberry added, aiming to complete the search "as soon as possible. We've already seen some people drop out because they've been picked by another town. So we don't want to lose our favorites."
Members of the committee agreed that their work -- identifying three qualified potential town managers for consideration by the Selectmen -- should be finished before the end of this month.
"That sounds realistic," search team member Carlo Zaffanella said. "We'll have consensus on six, we need to find an appropriate date and get it done."
"Personally I'm much more prepared than the first time," said committee member Fran Vahle.
"The urgency is of the utmost importance right now," he said. "I'm feeling good about it."
"We're seasoned professionals," added Marybeth Mitts, amid laughter. "We can be hired out for any other town that needs a selection committee."
Also on the search team is local Realtor Mary Jo Piretti.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto