Candidate drops out of running for Cheshire administrator; Select Board considers reopening search

Ed St. John IV

CHESHIRE — After two years on the job, Town Administrator Ed St. John IV unexpectedly has resigned from his position, effective Friday.

St. John submitted his letter of resignation Thursday night to board Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi, who, in turn, notified the other four board members and municipal department heads.

St. John, a longtime defense attorney, said he no longer could be a part-time town administrator and a full-time lawyer at the same time. “Having two separate careers running parallel wasn’t working, and I don’t want to shortchange either one,” he told The Eagle. “I want to devote as much time to my caseload as possible, and I also want the town to move forward efficiently.”

Francesconi says she was very surprised by St. John’s resignation heading into the final year of his three-year contract.

“There have been a lot of positive changes, a lot of positive momentum and, hopefully, we’ll have more changes to improve,” she said Friday.

St. John was hired in mid-December 2018, after a monthslong search to find a successor for Mark Webber, who officially retired at the end of that year, after 11 years of service.

St. John had resigned from the Select Board in September 2018, 16 months into his first three-year term, so he could seek municipal employment. The remaining two board members — Carol Francesconi and Robert Ciskowski — hired St. John on a probationary basis, but after two months on the job, he and the board inked a three-year deal at an annual salary of $40,000. The town since has expanded the board to five people.

Though lacking town administrator experience, St. John had been involved in town government. His municipal resume includes being the town moderator and serving as chairman of the town’s master plan committee. The Cheshire native also was the town’s superintendent of buildings and grounds, a duty that came with being a selectman.

As administrator, St. John primarily worked 12 hours on Tuesdays — those are the big meeting days for town boards in Cheshire — and 12 hours on Thursdays, or split those hours with another day, as needed.

“The demands of this job necessitate it being full time,” he said. “Some thought needs to be given to making it full time.”

Until a search for St. John’s successor begins, the board might hire an interim to bridge the gap, Francesconi said.

“[The administrator position] will definitely be an agenda item on Tuesday night,” she said. “My overall goal for now is to separate out and delegate [St. John’s] duties among the board.”

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com.