Great Barrington town manager search begins

Sunday December 2, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON -- The search for a new town manager is taking shape after a consulting firm interviewed the Board of Selectmen and town employees to develop a job description.

The UMass’ Collins Center for Public Management has been contracted for $14,000 to start the search and return with a list of candidates, according to Selectman Andrew Blechman. Also, $4,000 has been allocated for candidate travel expenses.

The new town manager, who would likely start immediately following the expiration of Town Manager Kevin O’Donnell’s contract on April 25, 2013, will assume the position in the leadup to a whirlwind of town activity.

There is a long-planned Main Street renovation project scheduled for next year. There is also a vote scheduled for June for a multimillion-dollar high school renovation, and there is also the annual town meeting in the spring.

The board on Monday agreed to accept applications for the town manager job through mid-January. Volunteers are also being sought to serve on a seven-person committee that will review those applications solicited by UMass’ Collins Center for Public Management.

The current contract for Kevin O’Donnell, who has managed Great Barrington for the last four years, is $101,546.

About two months have passed since a crowded and contentious September meeting when the board voted 4-1 to not renew O’Donnell’s contract after he received unfavorable marks on his past two evaluations.

On Wednesday, Blechman said he was interviewed by the consultant and emphasized the need for someone who is decisive, but who also has the ability to communicate his decision-making.

Blechman also said he’s "looking for someone that is a big thinker" and business-friendly.

Selectman Stephen Bannon, who was the lone vote against allowing O’Donnell’s contract to expire, said he was interviewed for more than 90 minutes about what he would like in an ideal candidate.

He said it should be the priority of the town manager to keep taxes low.

"I am looking for a strong leader with a good personality with the best interest of the town in mind," Bannon said.

There are some substantial developments about to take place in Great Barrington in 2013, which is one of several reasons Bannon said that he supported O’Donnell retaining his job for at least another year.

There is a substantial multimillion-dollar, half-mile reconstruction project planned for Main Street that will impact the sidewalks and roads of the town’s main thoroughfare.

"The timing is very poor and with the Main Street Project [coming]," Bannon said. "Kevin was there from the beginning."

In June, voters will also be asked to vote on a property tax increase to renovate Monument Mountain Regional High School.

Bannon said that in addition to dealing with these developments, the new town manager will need to manage a mixed reaction regarding O’Donnell’s departure.

"There is a split in the town," Bannon said. "Some are not happy that Kevin’s contract is not being extended, and I think this [new town manager] will have to help heal that."


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