WILLIAMSTOWN — After more than a year of searching, the town could be poised to hire a full-time town manager this weekend.
Five candidates have been chosen for interviews, and are all qualified and experienced, according to Select Board member Hugh Daley, a liaison to the Town Manager Search Screening Committee.
Interim Town Manager Charles Blanchard has been serving in the post since April 2021, taking over from former Town Manager Jason Hoch, who resigned in February 2021.
The Select Board had interviewed two candidates for the full-time post in October 2021, but passed on both, and restarted the search from scratch, using professional search consultant GovHR.
The consultant gathered five candidates for the search committee to interview, out of more than 13 original applicants. The committee interviewed three of them on Thursday, with two more to be interviewed this coming Thursday.
The committee will then choose two or three finalists and release their names to the public. The Select Board will interview those finalists beginning at 1 p.m. Friday, and a meet-and-greet will be held at The Log on Spring Street to give residents a chance to get to know the candidates.
The Select Board will meet Saturday to deliberate and choose whom to appoint, and contract negotiations about salary and terms of service will commence.
“It’s a competitive market, so we’re going to move as fast as we can,” Daley said. “GovHR has turned up a slate of great candidates, so we will find Williamstown a new town manager soon.”
A new town manager will face a number of challenges from day one. Williamstown has been roiled by a number of crises since 2020, when the murder of George Floyd by police in Minnesota churned up a building resentment against bias in police ranks and sparked protests nationwide.
Then a lawsuit alleging racial and sexual harassment at the police station exacerbated tensions, and sparked the resignation of then Police Chief Kyle Johnson and Town Manager Jason Hoch. Sgt. Scott McGowan, who filed the suit, retired amid allegations that he also had behaved inappropriately.
All of this took place at the height of the pandemic, which was forcing the town to reimagine its style of governing and means of communications with town residents.
The new town manager will be coming on board just prior to Town Meeting and town elections, in the midst of a town discussion over proposed zoning changes and budgetary considerations.