Richmond search panel to dive into town administrator applications


RICHMOND — A search committee of seven residents is preparing to start sifting through a mini-deluge of applicants seeking to succeed Mark Pruhenski as town administrator.

Pruhenski, appointed in late March as Great Barrington town manager as of July 1, will leave Richmond on May 30, precisely three years after beginning his tenure there, having previously served as town administrator in the Franklin County town of Whately and before that, 10 years as Great Barrington's public health agent.

By last week's deadline, 21 applications had been received, including four from Berkshire County. After the search committee selects three finalists, the Select Board will make the choice following interviews in a public session.

The position carries a salary of up to $75,000 a year, plus health and retirement benefits, depending on qualifications and experience. A 40-hour weekly schedule, plus occasional night meetings, is cited in the advertisement for the post, which lists a town population of 1,489 that's "home to a top-notch Pre-K through 8th grade independent school" and has a roughly $7 million municipal budget, including education spending.

The ad indicated a preference for candidates who have been a municipal manager or assistant manager, or with equivalent education and experience.

Skills, abilities and knowledge in municipal finance, procurement, personnel management as well as grant writing and administration were listed, along with "a positive attitude and strong leadership skills."

After the search committee meets later this month to organize and select a chairman, members will examine the applicants' credentials and references.

"West Stockbridge and Richmond will still consider a shared town administrator if the right applicant surfaces," Pruhenski pointed out, since the concept has the blessing of the select boards in both towns. Before his appointment to the Great Barrington post, he was poised to become the joint administrative leader for the two towns upon the impending retirement of Mark Webber as the longtime West Stockbridge administrator.

"Mark Webber and I have been in constant communication," said Pruhenski. "If we feel there's an applicant who's a strong candidate and could serve or be willing to serve both communities, the two search committees would get together to have that conversation." West Stockbridge's search committee is set to winnow down its list of applicants there.

The Richmond job ad stated that "candidates qualified and willing to serve as a Shared Town Administrator with our neighboring town of West Stockbridge could be considered for both positions with an increased salary to reflect the additional responsibilities."

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"Right now, we're proceeding independently," said Richmond Select Board Chairman Neal Pilson. "The option is still there if both select boards decide that they have the right person to do the shared position."

The search committee of Richmond residents includes attorney, Town Moderator and Board of Appeals Chairman William Martin, School Committee Chairman Dewey Wyatt, Polly Mann, Jennifer Morse, Board of Health member Peter Cohen, Finance Committee member John Mason and Claudia Ryan, administrative assistant at Town Hall.

Looking back on his three years at Richmond Town Hall, Pruhenski described the town as "financially strong, with good solid reserves" thanks to "very conservative" budgeting by the Select Board and the Finance Committee. "They're very conscious of keeping the tax rate in check," he noted.

Listing achievements on his watch, he cited renovations to Town Hall, a bylaw regulating events at the town's three farm enterprises including recent arrival Balderdash Wine Cellars, and the solar energy project at Richmond Consolidated School.

"Enrollment numbers of Richmond students continue to rise every year, and I know the school is very proud of that, as is the town," Pruhenski added.

"I think the town's in good shape and the next administrator will be able to easily roll into the position and pick up the ball," he said, pointing to a whiteboard listing his projects and tasks, mostly completed. "This is the perfect time for transition" following the upcoming annual town meeting on Wednesday and the start of a new fiscal year on July 1, he pointed out.

Pruhenski, 45, a Great Barrington native who lives in the village of Housatonic, said he loves the town and acknowledged that he "didn't want to miss the great opportunity to work there. I feel like I'm in the prime years of my career now, so the timing was perfect."

A part-time interim town administrator is under consideration to fill the gap in Richmond until Pruhenski's successor is selected and is available to start work.

The likely candidate, subject to his availability, is Robert Markel, recently the interim administrator in Becket who now works temporarily in Buckland and Shelburne Falls. Markel served as mayor of Springfield from 1992 to 1996 and has been town administrator or manager in Norfolk and Ipswich, as well as interim administrator posts in Southampton, Stoneham and Templeton.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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