Jarvis and Downey.jpg

Debra J. Jarvis, left, and Richard Downey are finalists to become the next town administrator in Williamstown, succeeding Jason Hoch. Jarvis and Downey will attend a public event Thursday and sit for separate final interviews Friday with the Select Board. 

Two finalists to take Williamstown’s top administrative post will meet residents Thursday, then sit for Friday interviews with the Select Board.

Richard Downey and Debra J. Jarvis will attend a reception that is open to the public from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Williams Inn, at 101 Spring St.

“In the mind of the screening committee, either one of these candidates is a good candidate for us,” Hugh Daley told Select Board colleagues Monday.

Starting at 9 a.m. Friday, the two Midwesterners will appear for up to 90 minutes each before a special session of the Select Board. The panel will reconvene at 1 p.m. to consider the finalists, and could decide that day who will take the full-time post vacated this spring by Jason Hoch.

On Thursday morning and afternoon, Downey and Jarvis are expected to visit sites in Williamstown and meet with town department heads and community leaders, including the interim town manager, Charlie Blanchard.

At their meeting Monday, the Select Board identified the finalists recommended by the Town Manager Search Advisory Committee, which was co-led by Daley and Jane Patton. Ten town residents served with Daley and Patton on the search committee.

The process is several months behind the original timeline developed by a consultant, GovHR USA. That group predicted that Select Board members would be interviewing finalists in August.

Jarvis is a management consultant in Kansas who once served as fire chief in two Chicago-area suburbs. Overland Park is part of the Kansas City metro area.

Downey is village administrator in Kronenwetter, Wis., with experience as a city administrator in Rock Falls, Ill., and Elkhard, Kan., according to his online profile. Downey says he is adept at grant-writing, union negotiations, human resources and economic development. Kronenwetter is a community of 8,100 people in north-central Wisconsin, west of Green Bay.

Downey earned a master’s in public administration from Central Michigan University and holds a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University.

Jarvis says that as a management consultant, she has specialized in helping clients improve leadership, organizational effectiveness, equity and inclusion. She holds a master’s degree in leadership studies from Lewis University in Illinois and a bachelor’s degree from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Hoch resigned in February in the wake of allegations contained in a U.S. District Court lawsuit filed, and then withdrawn, by Williamstown Police Sgt. Scott McGowan. McGowan is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of a review of allegations of misconduct lodged against him by members of the police department.

Daley said the screening committee spent 40 hours over three months finding candidates and narrowing the field. It used an online survey that gathered nearly 200 responses. Daley said the survey was “for folks to describe what they’re looking for in the next town manager.”

Daley said he believes residents had many chances to engage with the search. “This was a lot of extremely thoughtful participation by a wide variety of perspectives,” he said at Monday’s meeting.

The committee reduced the candidate pool to eight and then five, eventually choosing three for final interviews. One of those last candidates dropped out, Daley said.

“It’s a reminder that it’s a competitive market out there,” Daley said. “We actually lost some candidates along the way to accepting other jobs. Moving with some purpose and speed through this is critical.”

Patton said Thursday’s “meet and greet” with the public offers an important opportunity to not only open the process, but observe the candidates. “I personally enjoyed watching their interaction with the general public,” she said of earlier meetings of that type.

Though only the Select Board will interview the finalists, member Andy Hogeland said he welcomes comments from residents who wish to share views

before Friday afternoon, when the panel is likely to choose a manager. “If you want to tell us your impressions, we’d love to hear them,” he 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.