Williamstown town manager appreciates 'positive' review (copy)

The Williamstown Select Board picked an Illinois-based consulting firm to help it find candidates to replace Town Manager Jason Hoch, who plans to leave this job this spring.

WILLIAMSTOWN — An Illinois company will help Williamstown recruit and screen candidates for the job of town manager, after the position is held on an interim basis.

Members of the Select Board agreed Monday to hire the firm GovHR to help it seek a permanent successor to Town Manager Jason Hoch, who plans to leave his post in late April. The firm’s proposal to Williamstown lists a fee of $21,000, including expenses.

In the meantime, members Andrew Hogeland and Hugh Daley briefed colleagues on progress made in recruiting a temporary manager. Some candidates for the short-term post have been interviewed, and two other visits were to be held this week, Hogeland told the board.

Members of the public are invited to suggest questions for the eventual candidates.

“I like some mechanism for the public to weigh in,” said Anne O’Connor, a board member. “People should have an opportunity to express themselves.”

Hogeland said filling the temporary post is challenging, since the job runs for just six months or so.

The board discussed whether to allow the interim manager to work at least partly on a remote basis. While members agreed that remote work is possible, they want the temporary manager to be able to focus on the town’s needs.

“I want full-time attention,” said Daley, who has worked with Hogeland to line up candidates for the temporary job and to plan a search.

Hoch noted that this is the busiest time of year for a local government, as it shapes a new budget and prepares for town meeting. Hoch has agreed to handle work on the warrant for that meeting. Board members have praised his service as manager and expressed regret over his decision to leave.

Members agreed that current town employees should have a chance to suggest what’s most needed in a new manager.

“Getting more information from the staff is a great idea,” Daley said.

Williamstown received lower bids for the town manager recruitment from two other firms, Municipal Resources ($15,700) and Community Paradigm Associates ($12,750).

Chief’s post

The board also discussed how the town will handle the search for an interim chief to replace Kyle Johnson, who resigned in December, in the wake of an August lawsuit that took aim at his conduct as chief. Hoch was a co-defendant in that lawsuit.

Though the litigation was withdrawn after Johnson bowed out, Hoch resigned two months later, saying that he believed his presence was proving to be a distraction for the town in getting past the suit’s allegations of bias and harassment within the Williamstown Police Department.

O’Connor, who has led board planning for the chief search, said 22 town residents volunteered to serve on an advisory committee that will review resumes and help interview candidates for the post of interim chief. The department is being led by an acting chief, Lt. Michael Ziemba.

The board also is considering hiring a consultant to advise it on the search for a full-time chief, but it postponed action on that Monday.

In the board’s public comment period, resident Arlene Kirsch offered her help in recruiting a diverse field of candidates for the chief’s job. She said she is willing to advise any consulting group that signs on for ways to find candidates.

“I can talk to them if they need some help,” Kirsch said.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.