LENOX — The town has appointed a School Department employee as its new treasurer — part of a wave of job transfers across two towns triggered by the impending shutdown of Sabic Innovative Plastics in Pittsfield.
Town Manager Christopher Ketchen has named Paula Downer, the executive assistant to schools Superintendent Timothy Lee, to fill the position of town treasurer. Downer will succeed Andrea Wadsworth, who has accepted a job as business administrator in the Lee Public Schools.
"We're thrilled to have such a solid person of integrity who has deep roots in the community and such a solid management background," Ketchen said.
The shift was precipitated by Tiffany Morawiec's impending departure from the Lee position to accompany her husband to Sabic headquarters in Houston, where he and scores of other company employees have accepted transfer offers. The company announced last year that it was closing its Pittsfield operations, which employed about 300 people, in mid-2016.
Downer, a Pittsfield native who grew up in Lenox, joined the School Department in 2012 following 21 years at Crane & Co. in Dalton, where she advanced to manager of customer service.
She holds a bachelor's degree in business from Nichols College in Dudley with a minor in management information systems. Her master's in business administration is from Western New England University in Springfield.
"I always work hard to advance myself and to find something that gives me more skills," Downer said. She applied for the treasurer's post after scoping out the nature of the job by speaking with Ketchen and Wadsworth.
Downer acknowledged that she'll face "some sort of learning curve, but you've got to be a 'people person' there." But she'll be easing into the post by training with Wadsworth, who is transferring to Lee Public Schools as business administrator.
Wadsworth begins in Lee on Friday, but she will continue to devote some time to the treasurer's post in Lenox during the transition.
"I think she'll be a great trainer," Downer said of her predecessor. "She's very knowledgeable and organized."
But she stressed that she will continue to handle responsibilities in the Lenox School Department until her successor is named "because I don't ever want to burn a bridge. I'm not leaving here because I'm unhappy, I really like working with the superintendent and enjoy working in this office."
She pointed out that "the treasurer's job offers me more experience and growth. It's a good career move."
"I'm very good with people," she added, "and I figure that's going to help me tremendously in helping others, to read what their needs are, and if I can keep them satisfied, that's the ultimate goal for me."
Lee, the Lenox superintendent, said "I've valued Paula's contribution and I'm happy she's moving into a new role that she's excited about."
He has opened a local search for an executive assistant.
"I'm hoping there'll be someone internal who wants to make a transfer or that someone on our staff might know somebody who's interested in this job," Lee said. "We'll get a pool of candidates together and go from there."
The salary for the position will range from $45,000 to $55,000 a year, negotiable based on a candidate's experience and skills.
According to the posting, the job entails "comprehensive administrative assistance of a confidential, complex and responsible nature to the superintendent of schools and the Lenox School Committee the first point of contact between the superintendent's office and staff, parents, students and the public."
Downer will continue as a member of athletic booster clubs at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School since her son, Michael, will be a senior this fall. She will also continue writing about student activities for Lenox Living, the monthly community magazine.
Wadsworth was named treasurer in Lenox last November and earned high marks from town officials for her performance and customer-friendly demeanor.
She resigned from the Lee School Committee, where she was chairwoman, in early June, but she remains on a subcommittee handling the search for a new superintendent in the school district.
She also continues as a member of the Berkshire County Education Task Force.
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.