HINSDALE — Four months after taking the job, the town's first administrator Ryan Aylesworth is working with staff to bring modern conveniences to Hinsdale while preparing an interactive process to define goals for a "better and better" future.
Online town tax and bill paying and high-speed Internet rank among the early goals he hopes to achieve.
Aylesworth, 32, who lives in Richmond, beat out roughly 45 candidates for the newly created town administrator position when he was hired in late November.
A "settling in" period is coming to an end, where Aylesworth spent time getting to know department heads and making himself the central conduit to transmit information between various town branches.
"There's a great group of staff in Town Hall, the Highway Department, the Police Department and the Fire Department," he said. "We have a tremendous, dedicated group of folks. I feel very fortunate to have the privilege of working with them."
His tenure has marked a cooling off from a period of turmoil in the town's Police Department and Select Board, characterized by infighting over issues of personnel, elected officials and town direction.
"Things have been working pretty efficiently," Aylesworth said, without personally taking credit for the cooler atmosphere.
"Having not been there, what I can say is Select Board members work full-time jobs. They can't be in Town Hall full-time to field questions and concerns, and resolves issues so they don't escalate," he said. "You need somebody in there overseeing the day-to-day operational business and dealing with the state bureaucracy. It's really hard for a modern town to function at a high level and stay on top of everything without an administrator."
Select Board Chairman John Genzabella said, "My experience says that if you give me all the facts, I'll make a good decision. If you don't have those facts, you're not going to make a good decision. That's where Ryan comes in. He's been a great asset to us, putting in a lot of legwork to get us the information we need."
Aylesworth has been working closely with the Select Board and four volunteers to initiate a master planning process; a former stab at such a plan was abandoned a decade ago. Dubbed the Mission and Vision working group, the group's goal is to look ahead two decades or more.
"We want to set a course and define where we want to go, not react to events on a daily basis," he said.
The working group plans to soon distribute a detailed survey among residents, to be followed by numerous public forums aimed at soliciting more citizen input.
"We want it to be a process of shared ownership," he said. "This is not town officials telling people what the town is going to be or should be. Any plan that emerges should reflect the wishes and desires of the people who live in town."
He added, "This is a plan that is happening with the people in town, not a plan that's happening to the people in town."
Questions about the level and quality people desire in town services and what priorities official leaders should prioritize will be among the survey material.
Aylesworth also hopes to attract state money to fund badly needed repairs on Middlefield Road.
In other business, a new town website — hinsdalemass.com — will soon be collapsed into the state domain name for the town, hinsdalema.gov. On the site, residents will soon find online town bill paying and much more, he said.
The Police Department has hired a second full-time officer and hopes to soon hire a third.
Town Fire Chief Lawrence Turner has been appointed as the first department head of water and sewer.
He holds a master's degree in public administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and previously worked for Boys Scouts of America, Audubon International and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
His parents live in Hinsdale, which he said gives him a "vested interest" in helping lead the town to a good future.
Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.