LENOX -- Before the end of this month, a new town manager is expected to be chosen by the Select Board, filling a seven-month vacancy.

That’s the prediction by the chairman of the Town Manager Search Committee after a Sunday meeting of the five-member group behind closed doors.

The committee designated six semifinalists from a field of nine, previously whittled down from the 40-plus applicants who responded to the second-round posting of the opening by Municipal Resources, Inc., (M.R.I.) serving as the town’s headhunters.

"We nailed down six to bring forward," said committee Chairman Jay Carberry. The group’s next step is a round of personal interviews to be held on Friday, Jan. 24, also in executive session to preserve confidentiality for the applicants.

But the climactic phase of the hunt goes public the next day, when the Select Board questions three finalists in an open session at Town Hall. That meeting, on Saturday, Jan. 25, is expected to begin at 9 a.m.

One woman makes cut

Five of the semi-finalists are from New England, Carberry said, and one would be returning to Massachusetts from out of state. One woman is among the group of six, he added. But he declined to specify whether any of the remaining candidates are from Berkshire County or elsewhere in the state.

The Sunday session included a teleconference with Donald Jutton, president of M.R.I., the municipal-consulting firm based in Meredith, N.


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H., which performs job searches and other services for towns and cities in New England and Pennsylvania. He will also participate in the final sets of interviews.

A professional group assembled by M.R.I. also will question the candidates on Jan. 24 before conferring with the town’s committee to select the trio of finalists.

Although the applicants have filled out detailed essay questions, Carberry considers the personal interviews crucial.

"It’s the way they handle themselves, their ability to communicate their thoughts in a somewhat intimidating, stressful, five-to-one situation," he explained. "That would be part of the experience they would have to go through daily as town manager, so it’s good to see how they handle it under some pressure."

Other key factors, Carberry stated, include "good eye contact" and familiarity with the town’s major issues.

If a candidate is unable to answer a committee member’s question, he added, "without a doubt, it’s better to just admit you don’t know. None of us has knowledge of every aspect. I wouldn’t hold it against them if they don’t know the answer."

‘Stronger group, overall’

Carberry described the current crop of candidates as "a stronger group, overall" than the committee encountered in the first job search last summer. That effort ended without a new manager when contract talks between the Selectmen and the chosen applicant fell apart over certain benefits and perks.

Until the scheduled Jan. 25 public interviews by the Select Board, the details of the new search remain private, in keeping with the state’s open meeting law that allows confidentiality until the final phase.

The volunteer local committee reopened the search in December after the opening was widely advertised by M.R.I. under a contract extension with the town. The recruitment effort targeted candidates who have at least seven years of "progressive management and leadership experience" with the town meeting form of government in New England.

In addition to Carberry, owner of Carberry Auto Parts, committee members include Lenox residents Marybeth Mitts, a human resources professional at Williams College; Realtor Mary Jo Piretti; Fran Vahle, a sales and marketing director; and General Dynamics executive Carlo Zaffanella.

The salary for the town manager post was advertised at $100,000 or more, plus health insurance, retirement, vacation, relocation expenses and other benefits. The job has been open since June 21, when Gregory Federspiel left after nearly 14 years in the position to become town administrator of Manchester-by-the-Sea, north of Boston.

To contact Clarence Fanto:

cfanto@yahoo.com

or (413) 637-2551.

On Twitter: @BE_cfanto