Stockbridge administrator has lone interview for Richmond post

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RICHMOND — Much to the surprise of the Richmond Select Board, Stockbridge Town Administrator Danielle Fillio was the only one of the three finalists for the open administrator position to appear for her scheduled public interview on Tuesday evening.

The no-shows were Rebecca Stone, currently Otis town administrator, who had informed interim Richmond Town Administrator Bob Markel that she was withdrawing her candidacy, and Angeline Lopes Ellison, the former town manager of Uxbridge in Worcester County. Ellison’s absence was unexplained, but on Wednesday night, the three board members agreed to give her a chance to be interviewed on a date and time to be scheduled early next week.

The candidates were vying to succeed former Town Administrator Mark Pruhenski, who left last month to become Great Barrington's town manager.

During her 45-minute interview, Fillio emphasized her keen interest and enthusiasm for the position, which pays $75,000 a year — the same as her current post.

"I want this job because I truly like being a town administrator," she pointed out. "Unfortunately, I am not currently happy where I am, and I would like to continue working as a town administrator somewhere that would make me happy."

Dissension and anger have erupted at recent Stockbridge meetings over a number of issues, including the ouster of the fire chief — and his subsequent lawsuit against the town; discussions about a possible roundabout; management of weed infestation in Stockbridge Bowl; and a recent change in meeting times and protocol.

"I like hearing the different points of views from all the different residents; everybody has their own opinions on how to make things work," Fillio said.

"[But] the environment in Stockbridge has changed so drastically over the last few years that it's become a little hard for me to keep up with that and my family. I'm looking for a little more calm, where there's respect," she said. "If a board doesn't have the level of respect that you need, then it ends up chaos."

She also noted that in Stockbridge, "I only have certain decision-making authority based on what the board allows me to have, and that can also change based on who's on that board. Now, everything needs to be run by them before any decisions get made."

In response, Select Board Chairman Roger Manzolini noted that, "We like to have an independent town administrator make decisions, but for the most part, we will take responsibility for the decisions. The buck doesn't stop there, with you; it stops with us. You report to us, so if you make a bad decision, that's our fault. We will accept that; we'll talk to you about it, but it won't be harsh."

"Why do you think should we hire you?" he asked Fillio.

"Because with my experience, my knowledge and my personality," she stated, "I think that I can fit in with Richmond, and I would be able to work with the employees and can hopefully hop in, learn the different aspects of how things are done here, and hopefully I'll be able to get along with them and progress smoothly."

Manzolini assured her that "based on only knowing you for 45 minutes, I kind of agree with you on that, I think you would fit in."

While Fillio said her contract with Stockbridge calls for three months' notice, "if I were offered the position, I have a feeling that if I negotiate with them; I could narrow that down," because there's also a provision allowing for less time by mutual agreement.

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Manzolini asked how long she envisioned herself staying in the job.

"I'd like to be in this job long-term," Fillio replied, adding that she had expected to "stay in Stockbridge long-term, but due to the drastic environment changes there, I felt I needed to try to find something else for me. If I was to get this job, I would be here very long-term."

Asked by Manzolini to assess her own communication skills, Fillio responded, "probably a `7' or an `8,' " citing occasional issues when a written communication turns out to be incomplete because "sometimes I think people should know more than they do."

"Of course, we're looking for a '10,' " the Select Board chairman replied, smiling. "However, I would rather have an `8' that's willing to say so, knowing that they're not perfect."

On specifics, Fillio assured the members that she is "extremely proficient and experienced" in the Excel online program for budget preparations, and that she's "highly familiar" with the busy run-up to the posting deadline for annual town meeting warrant articles and motions. She also pointed out that she initiated for Stockbridge a budget explanation sheet to help inform voters ahead of the town meeting.

Selectman Neal Pilson emphasized the importance of the town's website as a marketing tool to "sell the town to new residents," he said, especially the need to attract more young people.

"I think I'd be very comfortable" managing and updating the website, Fillio said, as well as handling Town Hall's weekly e-mail to residents on upcoming events and meetings.

She also made it clear that she would be able and willing to handle logistical chores at Town Hall, including "physical stuff that needs to be done," as Manzolini put it.

Selectman Alan Hanson reassured Fillio that the board members would "back you up and we would certainly be willing and able to do whatever you ask of us, it's not like you're on your own."

Manzolini asked Fillio how, in a few words, she thinks her co-workers would describe her.

"Professional, always open-door," she replied.

"And how would your friends describe you?" Manzolini continued.

"Energetic, outgoing, nice, polite, get along with a lot of people pretty simply," Fillio suggested.

"Good answer," the Select Board chairman told her. "We're looking for energetic, nice people to get along with the townspeople, and with us."

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


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