LENOX -- A new candidate for the vacant town manager post has surfaced -- one with extensive experience in Town Hall.
Mary Ellen Deming, longtime director of administrative services and interim co-town manager since last June, confirmed on Monday that she has submitted her resume to the local search committee.
"I've been doing this job for over 20 years, I know the players and the projects," she told The Eagle. "I think I could be an asset to the town in that position."
However, the town charter revised in 1991 to expand the Select Board to five members and create a town manager position bars anyone who has worked for the town for the past three years from being appointed. That restriction could be modified only by approval of town meeting voters. Then, a special act of the Legislature would be required.
Town Manager Search Committee Chairman Jay Carberry said Deming's application has been received.
"It's a little unusual, I don't know where that would go," he said. "In order to consider it, we would be re-opening the search, which is a separate discussion. Probably, there are other people who might like to throw their hat in."
The quest for a new town manager returned to square one late last month after Steve Bartha, the designated choice, bowed out because he was dissatisfied with provisions of the Select Board's final contract offer. Bartha remains assistant town manager in Avon, Conn.
Deming started in Town Hall as administrator for the Select Board in 1991 and subsequently became assistant to the town manager. She served under all three in Lenox -- John Musante, Joseph Kellogg, and, for nearly 14 years, Gregory Federspiel, who departed in June for a similar position in Manchester-by-the-Sea.
Deming recalled that she served as acting town manager for a year and half between Musante's departure and Kellogg's arrival.
She indicated that if the search committee and the Select Board vote choose her, any revision in the town charter would await the verdict of voters at next May's annual town meeting, although an earlier special town meeting could be an option.
At present, Deming said, "everything's going smoothly in Town Hall," a view echoed by Select Board Chairman David Roche, who added that he would favor whomever the search committee endorses.
"They'll recommend a candidate to us, it's going to take a while, but the town's running fine," said Roche, noting that the town is saving money by not paying a town manager's salary and benefits.
As for the five-member volunteer search committee, Carberry said he expects it will meet within the next week or two.
"The problem is the committee hasn't been able to sit down and talk about everything," he said. "I'm a little discouraged that it's so problematic to arrange a time for the five of us to get together."
The committee brainstormed through a range of options on Sept. 6, its only meeting so far this month.
They included restarting afresh by soliciting new applications, combing through the previously received resumes, or waiting until next spring to reopen a search. Other possibilities included resuming the search only for local candidates, hiring a different search firm, doing away with the town-manager form of government -- an option Carberry opposed -- or designating the committee as the sole search agents.
"We're kind of in a spot here," Carberry said. "Lenox needs a town manager. I don't think it's a good idea to keep people in interim situations very long. I think we would be much better off if we could get somebody in there than not." He declared that waiting until next spring "is not a good idea."
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