Richmond, West Stockbridge seek to fill joint town administrator position

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RICHMOND — A shared town manager position between Richmond and West Stockbridge is in jeopardy as the person who was going to work for both towns has found employment in another community.

Richmond Town Administrator Mark Pruhenski was going to become the town administrator for both towns in February, but accepted the town manager's job in his hometown of Great Barrington in March.

In a joint meeting of the two communities' select boards at the Richmond Town Hall on Friday, officials for the towns decided to open separate searches for new municipal administrators — but they're not giving up on the idea of a shared town administrator.

If the towns find a candidate who might be able to serve both communities, officials will consider the option and look into also hiring a joint town administrative assistant. If no one is found suitable for both communities, each town may decide to hire their own administrators.

A joint town administrator between the two towns is expected to save the communities money and build on existing and new cooperation between the municipalities.

"Each of the towns will post the position and interview separately," said Richmond Select Board Chairman Neal Pilson. "If one of the towns interviews a candidate that we think would be someone that we should consider for the joint position, then we will notify each other and we'll each interview the candidate."

Richmond and West Stockbridge select board members voted in February to make Pruhenski the town administrator for both communities. The decision was prompted by longtime West Stockbridge Administrative Assistant Mark Webber's decision to retire later this year. Confident in Pruhenski's abilities the towns voted to share Pruhenski and increase his salary to accommodate coverage for two municipalities.

The planned shared service mirrored an arrangement between Lenox and Lee, now well into its second year under Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Ketchen.

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But in late March, the Great Barrington Select Board elected to offer Pruhenski their town administrator job and he accepted. It's not clear what Pruhenski's salary will be, but the current Great Barrington town administrator earns $119,000 annually.

Pruhenski will likely start his new Great Barrington role on either June 1 or July 1, said West Stockbridge Select Board member Doane Perry. Pruhenski's last day in Richmond has not been finalized.

Perry said many members of both select boards were aware that Pruhenski had applied for the Great Barrington position, and they hoped he wouldn't take it.

"It's too fancy a job, too great a city to turn down," Perry said. "So, we're looking for somebody like him to manage the town."

When they decided to hire Pruhenski as joint town administrator, members of both select boards said that the shared position would work because they knew Pruhenski could handle the job. Another person might not come along who is qualified, or wants to, work in both communities. Still, Perry is optimistic.

"The future is promising," Perry said.

West Stockbridge has already posted an advertisement seeking a new administrator, and Richmond is expected to do the same later this week. Search committees, made up of residents and local officials, will screen candidates for the two jobs. Anyone wishing to participate in the search can contact the town halls in Richmond, 413-698-3882, or West Stockbridge, 413-232-0300, ext. 319, for consideration.

The possible shared town administrator and assistant town administrator positions could join a long list of shared services between Richmond and West Stockbridge. The neighboring towns share an ambulance service, animal control officer, assessors, building inspectors, community health organization/nurse and school superintendent.

Kristin Palpini can be reached at kpalpini@berkshireeagle.com, @kristinpalpini, 413-629-4621.


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