Cheshire Select Board still split over town administrator pick

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CHESHIRE — The Select Board is sharply divided in picking a new town administrator.

Chairwoman Carol Francesconi and Selectman Robert Ciskowski need another week to convince the other that their choice is best in finding a successor for Mark Webber, who plans to retire this month. Webber has spent a combined 11 years at Cheshire Town Hall.

The short-handed board made the case for its top choices Tuesday, at its weekly meeting. Francesconi said she is "leaning toward" former selectman Ed St. John IV. The local attorney resigned from the three-member board two months ago, in order to apply for the part-time position.

Ciskowski has Tom Spiro of Worthington as his top pick because of his municipal government experience. He isn't even considering St. John as an option.

"I don't think Ed is the candidate I was looking for," he said.

After about a 15-minute discussion, neither elected official could get the other to budge from their original choice, so they agreed to discuss the matter further Tuesday.

St. John, Spiro and Marian Carr of Sandisfield were the three finalists of the nine applicants the board interviewed for the municipal job Nov. 1.

Carr is operations manager for Berkshire County Head Start. Until July 30, Spiro was employed as the program coordinator for Elms College's satellite operation at Greenfield Community College. He brings to the table the most time in municipal government serving as the administrative aide to the Conway Select Board from 2005 to 2012.

Carr spent one year as town clerk in Otis, whereas St. John served two years of his three-year term as a selectman. He currently serves as the town moderator, a position he won't seek at next spring's annual town election.

Despite Spiro's experience, Francesconi doubts that he is long for the job.

"I don't feel comfortable with him. If something else comes along, he'll leave," she said.

She has Carr as her third choice, due to the lack of on-the-job municipal work and living at least an hour's trek from Cheshire.

Ciskowski acknowledged that St. John is more readily available to the town, since he is a local.

But the selectman made Carr his second choice; after that, he suggested rebooting the search process.

Cheshire's new town administrator will work the equivalent of three days a week and earn a yearly salary of $40,000. Annual town meeting voters in May agreed to double the number of days and to increase the salary from $21,433 to make the position more attractive.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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