Stockbridge Select Board to interview two finalists for administrator post

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STOCKBRIDGE — The Select Board is inching its way toward a decision on filling the open position of town administrator.

The next step is to interview each of the two finalists during an 8 a.m. public meeting of the three-member board on Wednesday.

Susan Carmel, Pittsfield's director of finance and city treasurer during the administrations of Mayor James Ruberto and Daniel Bianchi, is slated to appear at 8:45 a.m. Carmel was among three city department heads not reappointed by incoming Mayor Linda Tyer in January.

Scheduled at 8 a.m. is Heather Budrewicz, the town administrator in Southampton since March 2014.

The key leadership post in Stockbridge has been vacant since the mid-July retirement of Jorja-Ann Marsden, who had held the position for 20 years.

Ahead of the regular Monday night Select Board meeting, details about how the two 45-minute interviews will be handled had not been formalized, said Chairman Ernest "Chuckie" Cardillo.

In order to give the public a voice, Selectman Donald Chabon told The Eagle he favors seeking questions from citizens who could email their ideas to selectmen@townofstockbridge.com.

Chabon explained that he's suggesting that each Select Board member would pose two or three questions to both candidates in their separate interviews, with an opportunity for a follow-up question. If the two other board members support the proposal, he added, questions would be reviewed and chosen right before the finalists are called in for their interviews.

Although the public is permitted to attend the interviews under the Open Meeting Law, Cardillo said he did not anticipate that citizens would be invited to directly question the candidates.

According to Peter Fohlin, the former town manager of Williamstown, while the Open Meeting Law does not specify the right of public to ask questions during the interviews, neither is it ruled out.

"The selectmen would be within their rights to invite public participation," said Fohlin, who served Williamstown for 16 years. Previously, he was town administrator of Vineyard Haven for six years and this past spring spent three months as interim town administrator in Richmond.

Fohlin suggested that a "happy medium" could be a follow-up public conversation with the candidates in a coffee-hour setting.

Along with Lee Town Administrator Robert Nason and Dalton Town Administrator Kenneth Walto, Fohlin served on the so-called Vetting Committee that recommended three qualified finalists from a group of nine candidates identified by a five-member citizens search committee.

That group had sifted through 27 applications and ranked the candidates based on their backgrounds and professional experience.

Lenox Town Manager Christopher Ketchen had been among the final three, but last month the Select Board voted 2-1 not to consider his candidacy as part of a potential shared services arrangement with Lenox. Unlike the previous board that had favored consideration of a collaboration, the current members pulled back from further exploration.

Ketchen had specified that his interest was limited to a shared position since he intended to continue serving in his Lenox post.

Last June, the Select Board voted 2-1 to approve a motion by Chabon, then the newly elected member, to consider a field of five town administrator candidates.

But Chabon said on Monday that at this point, "I don't wish to delay the process further. I'm willing to go with the two candidates as it now stands."

He suggested that in order to consider the interviews and the finalists' resumes, the Select Board could make a decision by voting at its meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7.

At the May 16 annual town meeting, voters approved a salary of up to $110,000 a year for the new town administrator but also voted in favor of a citizens motion by Terry Flynn to weaken the administrator's powers by reserving to the Select Board key decisions such hiring and firing of employees and securing procurement contracts.

As advertised last spring, the town sought "a community-oriented administrator with strong leadership, communications and presentation skills. Ideal candidate requirements include at least seven years' experience in municipal leadership positions, with emphasis in finance and public administration, familiarity with human resources issues and preferably, a master's degree in business administration, public administration or finance."

The ad, which cited a possible shared-services arrangement, also specified that "we seek a candidate who will perform the duties of the position with integrity and transparency, and who will demand the same from his or her staff."

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.


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