Saturday June 15, 2013

LENOX -- After receiving farewell wishes from municipal employees, board and committee members, and local residents, Town Manager Gregory Federspiel left his office on Friday for the last time in his official capacity.

"It's very hard to say goodbye," he acknowledged during a well-attended luncheon for the staff at the Town Hall auditorium. Local residents stopped by during an early afternoon open house.

Despite his new post as town administrator in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Federspiel is not cutting his ties with Lenox leaders this summer.

Select Board members unanimously voted this week to retain him as a consultant for three months. He will be paid $1,000 per month, with a possible renewal if needed.

"I don't do this with mixed emotions, I'm just upset," said Select Board Chairman David Roche as he took note of Federspiel's last regular meeting with the board on Wednesday night. "He's been a tremendous asset to us and we certainly wish him well. I don't want to get too emotional, but thanks a lot, Greg, for all you've done."

Other selectmen voiced similar sentiments.

"It's been a pleasure to work for this town," Federspiel responded. "Lenox is a great town. I wish you well and I thank you for the support and the honor of serving for these 14 years."

During the transition, Jeffrey Vincent, capital projects manager, and Mary Ellen Deming, director of administrative services, will be in charge. They will each be paid an additional $500 a week because of the additional work load, beginning July 1 for an anticipated four-month period.

At a special Select Board meeting on Thursday evening with the six-member citizens group that will help screen semifinalists for the town manager post, Roche joked: "I've told Greg that if he screws up, he's got a job back here."

Addressing a question about any candidate who might lack municipal experience, Federspiel said "it would be a steep learning curve" unless "they were so dynamic" and had some knowledge of how Massachusetts town government works. He said he would be leery of an out-of-state applicant without local government background.

Having previously served as town manager of Stowe, Vt., before he was hired in Lenox in 1999, Federspiel said the steepest part of the learning curve for him was learning Massachusetts law.

"It's a different animal," he said. "The state is looking over your shoulder every step of the way."

Asked which qualities are crucial for a successful applicant, Federspiel cited financing and infrastructure expertise, and helping the town "coalesce around what we want to do with economic development. Hopefully, the new manager will do gentle pushing from behind."

Said Federspiel, "I think Lenox is struggling with trying to figure out what it wants to be. Historically, it was a bedroom community for a thriving Pittsfield and the summer business was icing on the cake. Now, it's practically the whole cake. Lenox is struggling with figuring out what the best next step is."

Agreeing that a strategic plan is needed, Federspiel added, "You're not going to change the fact that the big cake is tourism. That isn't going to change; you may be able to add a layer or two of something else, but the foundation is going to be tourism."

He also suggested that the town would benefit from "someone who probably is more aggressive than I have been with personnel management. If I critique my years here, I suffered from being a little too nice sometimes."

At the top of the list is a good fit, Federspiel stressed.

"If it's a mismatch in terms of personalities, you're dead from day one."

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@yahoo.com
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto