Saturday June 15, 2013

LENOX -- The search firm hired to find a successor to Town Manager Gregory Federspiel, whose last official day was Friday, has reported an immediate deluge of at least 22 applicants for the post.

At a briefing for the Select Board and a six-member citizens panel appointed to help screen candidates, the president of Municipal Resources Inc., Donald R. Jutton, described the position as a plum job for an experienced professional in public administration.

"I would expect you'll get a very good pool of candidates," he said. "This is one of the five or six best communities in the state in terms of lifestyle."

"You probably won't get any superstars in the early stages of their career because it's pretty isolated," he added. "But you'll get lifestyle-quality candidates, who are the best kind. I don't have to do a lot of selling about ‘please come.' They'll want to be here."

Explaining his firm's mission, Jutton stated: "We're not exactly headhunters, but we do what headhunters do."

Jutton, whose company had tapped Federspiel as a prime candidate for the Manchester Select Board that ultimately voted to hire him at $125,000 a year, described himself as a "recovering town manager." After 16 years in town government, Jutton's last post was town manager of Salem, N.H.

"In our view, it's all about fit," said Jutton as he described the qualities of a town manager. "People get hired because of their education, experience, and how well they do at the interview.


Advertisement

Nobody's been fired for any of those things. It's not what they do, it's how they do it that gets them in trouble."

Since Lenox has a residency requirement for its town manager, Jutton noted, "in all likelihood, we're going to be moving a family into the community and it can be catastrophic if we make the wrong pick. We want to make sure that beyond what it costs the community to make the wrong pick, we don't want to leave a family in trauma."

Jutton had spent the day interviewing Town Hall staff and surveying the Selectmen. He told the citizens group that he would keep them in the loop through email to gain input and to "learn about the personality of the community."

An "ideal candidate profile" will be circulated, he explained, noting that "nobody fits a job perfectly, so we want to make sure that the skills the person is weak in, or the attributes they don't have, don't matter much here."

"So far, I haven't found any warts here," said Jutton, "so I'm not sure we have to worry about a particular focused skill set nearly as much as finding a generalist."

Using Tanglewood as an analogy, he described a town manager as similar to an orchestra conductor: "He doesn't have to know how to play the oboe but he needs to know if the oboe is flat. Town managers, typically, are folks who know a little bit about a lot of things. As near as I can tell, you've got a really strong orchestra, so the question is, how do we find the right leader?"

Outlining the selection process, Jutton said that by August, after a confidential review of résumés and of semifinalists by the citizens panel, three finalists will be brought to the Select Board, "who will be free to screw it up."

"We'll do our best to do that," replied Selectman John McNinch amid laughter.

Jutton stressed the importance to a new town manager of having "folks in the community buy in" by welcoming his or her family members.

"You're moving a family into the community, and this is a job that takes 16 or 17 hours a day when you're in the learning curve," he said. "That leaves the spouse and family at home in a new community."

He suggested bringing in the chosen applicant's family for a weekend to meet townspeople.

"Include the family in the community," he urged the citizens group.

The town manager's job is stressful enough, Jutton noted, "but if you add the stress at home, sometimes it makes the wheels fall off."

As several of the citizens told Jutton: "We're hoping you can find somebody who can walk on water."

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

Town manager search timeline

Now: Advertising nationally for 30 days through the International City and County Managers Association, governmentjobs.com, and on websites of all Northeastern municipal leagues. A pool of 50 to 75 candidates is expected. Less than half will have public sector experience.

Mid-July: Potential candidates will be sent a half-dozen essay questions based upon interviewing and feedback from Lenox. The candidate search firm, Municipal Resources Inc., will review and rank the applicants and then schedule telephone interviews with the top 10 or 12, followed by a selection of six semifinalists who will be personally interviewed. The citizens group is kept in the loop.

Aug. 22: The Lenox citizens panel interviews three semifinalists.

Aug. 23: Candidates are interviewed by the Selectmen. At a followup meeting, the Selectmen deliberate and make a selection. The applicant who receives a conditional offer gets a background investigation by the Municipal Resources Inc. search firm, which will also assist with contract negotiations.

September: Contract negotiations concluded; successful applicant gives notice to current employer.

October: New town manager begins work.

Source: Municipal Resources President Donald R. Jutton.