Stockbridge to ramp up search for new town administrator

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STOCKBRIDGE — The search for a new town administrator to succeed Jorja Ann Marsden is expected to accelerate and possibly shift gears following Wednesday's Select Board meeting.

An update is on the agenda for the 7 p.m. session following a discussion among board members last week about the direction of the search, including suggestions by newly elected Selectman Donald Chabon for greater public involvement.

The qualifications of at least 20 applicants will be examined by the five-member screening committee of local citizens appointed unanimously by the Select Board last March.

Marsden announced in January that she will retire July 15 after 20 years in the post.

The current plan calls for a meeting by the screening group at 9 a.m. June 7 to begin evaluating the applications based on the requirements listed by the town in advertisements posted nearly a month ago. Since specific names are to be discussed, the session is expected to be closed, as is typical during the early stages of municipal personnel searches.

Chabon has expressed interest in being involved on the committee, which is chaired by Selectman Stephen Shatz only for the purpose of convening meetings. Shatz said he plays no role in the discussions of the screening committee.

But Chabon proposed a separate public meeting of that group to gather suggestions from interested town residents.

The ideal candidate qualifications listed by the town for Marsden's successor include seven years' experience in municipal leadership positions with emphasis on finance and administration as well as "familiarity with human resources issues and preferably, a master's degree in business administration, public administration or finance."

Though no salary range is listed in the advertisements nor has it been disclosed currently, the town budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 includes a line item of up to $110,000 for the town administrator's salary.

Annual town meeting voters approved the line item and the rest of the municipal budget on May 16, but with one modification. By a 70-56 vote toward the end of the three and a half hour meeting, a motion by resident Terry Flynn was adopted stipulating that the new administrator will not have the power to negotiate procurement contracts nor to hire and fire employees, reserving those powers to the Select Board.

Flynn voiced concern about the move to a town manager model of professional leadership and proposed that a decision on that change be left to voters at a special town meeting. He also suggested that the town hire an interim administrator for a year as citizens explore the future scope of the position.

Some of the applications for the position had already come in before annual town meeting voters acted to reduce the powers of the administrator. By a unanimous vote last March, the Select Board approved enhancing those powers, as permitted by state law, allowing the administrator act as chief procurement officer for contracts and to gain greater authority over the preparation of town budgets.

The job posting acknowledges that discussions are underway with Lee and Lenox on the possibility of sharing a town manager or administrator, perhaps beginning in the second half of next year after Lee Town Administrator Robert Nason retires in June. Lenox Town Manager Christopher Ketchen has been mentioned as a candidate.

But the Stockbridge search does not state whether the town's next administrator will serve for one year, three years or an unspecified length of time.

The job posting and ads assert that the town seeks "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."

Under the current game plan, the list of applicants would be whittled down to 10 or fewer by the screening committee, followed by a final vetting of semi-finalists by a small group of current and former town managers in the area. Their recommendations would go to the Select Board for public interviews with the finalists.

The screening committee members are:

Bronly Boyd, board chairman of Boyd Technologies and a trustee of Berkshire Health Systems; Stephanie Bradford, former Stockbridge business owner; Phyllis "Patti" Klein, a retired attorney and human resources specialist; Marie Raftery, the town's representative to the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and a recently appointed Planning Board member, and Peter Socha, a longtime Stockbridge sewer and water commissioner employed as buildings supervisor for the Boston Symphony's Tanglewood facilities.

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.


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