Williamstown Town Hall

The Williamstown Select Board will not be retaining a search firm for its interim town manager search, one member says. When it has a list of candidates, the initial screenings will be carried out by a subcommittee of two members of the Select Board. Then, the final candidates will be interviewed by the full board.

WILLIAMSTOWN — The Select Board intends to move quickly on finding an interim town manager, in the hope that it can have someone on board before departing Town Manager Jason Hoch leaves office in two months.

Because of the timing, the Select Board will forgo an advisory committee of residents to screen candidates, Jane Patton, chairwoman of the Select Board, said during the board’s regular meeting this week.

Select Board member Andrew Hogeland noted that he has approached the Massachusetts Municipal Association seeking names of potential candidates who have the proper credentials and experience to handle the job.

“They actually have a sort of registry for this, of people who want to be town managers,” Hogeland said. He also contacted a few consultants to see if they have names of potential candidates.

After an intense controversy over allegations of past sexual and racial harassment in the Police Department roiled the community since last summer, former Police Chief Kyle Johnson resigned his post in November. Hoch resigned his position Feb. 19, effective in 60 days, also fallout from the Police Department controversy.

Part of his reason for leaving, Hoch said, is that it became apparent during the ongoing community discourse on equity and race that he had become a focus of the discussion, and that remaining in his post would be an obstacle to allowing the discussion to move forward.

Hogeland noted that the Select Board will not be retaining a search firm for the interim town manager search, that when it has a list of candidates, the initial screenings will be carried out by a subcommittee of two members of the Select Board. Then, the final candidates will be interviewed by the full board.

“These are all people who have been town managers for 20 or 30 years, so, they have the qualifications, it’s just a matter of finding who we’re most comfortable with,” Hogeland said. He said that the board has been working on the search for only two days, so, it is very early in the process.

Select Board Member Hugh Daley stressed the time factor. “I really do think we should set for ourselves a 60-day timeline in order to make sure that there’s time in the seat with Jason [Hoch] still present,” he said. “We want to make sure that our institutional and operational knowledge is maintained and that the handoff is as seamless as possible.”

Daley added that if it takes longer, it could have an effect on community members.

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“One of the reasons we’re doing this search on our own is that this is an operational role and we can’t not have somebody in this seat,” he said. “It will impact service delivery to our residents, and we’re not going to let that happen.”

In a proposed description of the town manager’s job for the search, the time period for the interim position would be six months, while the town seeks a long-term replacement for Hoch. And it seems to allow for performing the duties remotely, given the coronavirus pandemic and its restrictions on in-person contact.

“The Board is willing to agree to terms allowing significant participation by remote audio-visual means, so long as on-site presence meets the needs for establishing relationships and attending meetings as needed,” reads the job description.

The document calls for someone with a “bachelor’s degree plus at least five to seven years of municipal executive level experience, preferentially in Massachusetts or New England. Candidates should have proven managerial and interpersonal skills to lead a dynamic, financially fit organization in an active, engaged and highly educated community.”

It calls for effective communication skills and collaboration with the Select Board, employees, the public, and local institutions and organizations. Also, the right person should have strong financial management abilities, including forecasting and budgetary skills.

“The town is committed to principles of diversity, inclusion and equity and the manager should demonstrate commitment to these principles,” the description reads.

As for the duties that go with the job, the town manager supervises about 65 employees, as well as the heads of several departments, including town clerk, council on aging, treasurer/collector, assessor, accountant, community development, public works and police.

Also, he or she will be responsible for three enterprise funds, for water, sewer and solid waste. The annual budget is about $22 million, with about $12 million of that going to the school district. The town’s bond rating is AA1.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or at 413-629-4517.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or at 413-629-4517.

Scott Stafford has been a reporter, photographer, and editor at a variety of publications, including the Dallas Morning News and The Berkshire Eagle. Scott can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com, or at 413-496-6301 and on Twitter at @BE_SStafford.