LENOX -- Contract negotiations with the newly designated town manager are moving into the fast lane, with in-person talks slated for Saturday morning at Town Hall.
Select Board Chairman David Roche said the meeting, to be held behind closed doors since it involves personnel negotiations, is expected to produce the framework for the hiring of Christopher Ketchen, 37, a native of Alford and graduate of Mount Everett Regional High School in Sheffield.
Ketchen, the current finance director in the town of Hopkinton, emerged as the unanimous choice of the Select Board in a 5-0 vote at a meeting on Jan. 29.
The Selectmen huddled in executive session ahead of their most recent public meeting on Wednesday evening, said Roche. "The five of us agreed on some talking points with the town manager candidate," he added. "Hopefully, we’ll be able to make some progress ironing out some sort of contract."
It’s quite possible that a contract offer will emerge during the session with Ketchen on Saturday, Roche told The Eagle. Participating by telephone will be Donald Jutton, president of Municipal Resources, Inc. in Meredith, N.H. He has been the town’s point person, serving as headhunter and negotiator, in its search for a new leader, gathering applications for the local search committee headed by Jay Carberry.
"I’m cautiously optimistic," said Jutton in a telephone interview on Thursday. "I don’t see any deal killers or outstanding issues.
Based on his communications with Ketchen and with Lenox town officials, he added, "we’re on track to nail this thing and wrap up the details on Saturday."
Assuming that happens, a written, conditional offer would be sent to Ketchen, which would lead to a formal background check by state police and a physician’s statement based on a current checkup.
"The deal would be consummated when those reports are received, typically within 30 days," Jutton explained.
He predicted that Ketchen could be on board in Lenox sometime in early spring, following a transitional period that includes a wrap-up of his responsibilities in Hopkinton prior to the annual town meeting there while getting up to speed on the issues here.
According to Jutton, the industry standard in municipal government is about 60 days from receiving a conditional employment offer until an official start date.
Ketchen, who lives in Natick, was unavailable for comment on Thursday. He told The Eagle when he was tapped as the new town manager that he was keen on returning to the Berkshires, "close to my family, but not too close."
He called the town "an exceptional community, a perfect fit. I’ll happily make my home in Lenox."
Ketchen, who earned his master’s degree in 2000 from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in public administration, had graduated there in 1998 with an honors bachelor’s degree in political science.
Before taking his post in Hopkinton, a Middlesex County town of 15,000 about 30 miles west of Boston in July 2012, he had held town government posts in Wellesley and served in the state Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services as a financial analyst from 2006 to 2008. He began his career in county government for Prince George’s County, Maryland.
The son of Charles and Karen Ketchen of Alford, he is married to the former Kimberly Jean Clouser of Sheffield; they have a son, 3.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
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On Twitter: @BE_cfanto