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AYER — Ayer Town Administrator Shaun A. Suhoski is a finalist for the post of Sturbridge Town Administrator. Suhoski’s name surfaced publicly again on Monday, Feb. 8 as one of three finalists’ names presented at the Sturbridge Board of Selectmen’s meeting by its Town Administrator Search Committee. The Sturbridge search began last summer.

Suhoski, 44, of Gardner made the ‘final three’ along with John O. D’Agostino, who has served as Town Manager in Mansfield for 12 years. The third finalist is William J. Sheridan of Laurel, Montana where he’s served as that city’s public works director and CEO for the past two years.

While Suhoski attends the Ayer Board of Selectmen’s meeting Tuesday, February 16, the Sturbridge selectmen will conduct their first, public finalist interview with D’Agostino. Suhoski’s interview is tentatively scheduled for Monday, Feb. 22 while Sheridan’s interview date has not yet been determined.

Sturbridge has a population of 9,800. Ayer’s population, in comparison, is 7,400. Sturbridge has a $23 million operating budget while Ayer’s is similar at $22 million.

“He’s got a very attractive resume.”

Search Committee Chairman James Ehrhard made the announcement of the three finalists’ names at the Sturbridge selectmen’s meeting. He says his committee’s work is now done after reviewing a field of 65 applicants, including the re-review of resumes submitted last summer under a prior search committee. The previous search committee dissolved when 4 of the 5 members resigned in protest, perceiving pressure from the Board of Selectmen to skew the selection process (See sidebar story).

The prior search committee did not announce its three finalists. Asked about common knowledge that Suhoski was a candidate last summer for the post, Ehrhard would only say “that’s the word on the street.”

Ehrhard says his committee had submitted 3 finalists’ to the selectmen in December, including D’Agostino but not Suhoski. Ehrhard said, however, Suhoski “was always in our top 10. He was always there. He was always close. He’s a good candidate.” The entire December list was rejected by the selectmen, including D’Agostino, who lost on a 2-3 vote. Ehrhard said his group was then sent back to the drawing board.

“Shaun Suhoski is an excellent candidate and I’d be perfectly happy if he got the job just as I would any of the other finalists,” Ehrhard said, “He had a real passion, a real energy about him.”

Ehrhard says there was no ranking of the final three and the final decision now rests solely with the selectmen.

Suhoski didn’t reapply for the post, Ehrhard said, but rather the search committee revisited applicants from last summer’s failed search attempt, “He never withdrew his application,” Ehrhard said, adding, “He hadn’t applied anywhere else, or we knew nothing to dispute that.”

The selectmen’s charge to the search committee came to a finer point after previous efforts produced administrators in the “second half of their career,” Ehrhard said. This time, the selectmen called for candidates who were “looking to move up, not down. Shaun easily fits that” criteria, Ehrhard said, adding that “Ayer’s a great town, but Sturbridge is bigger.”

While Suhoski lacks the requested years of pure town administration experience, Ehrhard said his committee was impressed with Suhoski’s “Deep well of experience” including the years served as Ayer’s Economic Development Director on “growth issues and planning – things that we’re struggling with right now. In Shaun’s case, he’s got a very attractive resume.”

As to whether the selectmen will conduct site visits to the finalists’ present posts, Ehrhard said he wasn’t sure but added, “We’d hope they would. I think they should.”

The posted Sturbridge salary range is between $85,000 and $120,000 with compensation and benefits commensurate with experience and subject to negotiation with the Selectmen. Suhoski’s base salary in FY2010 is $86,888.

The Sturbridge job posting sought “a qualified person with at least seven years full-time, paid experience as a Town Administrator or an Assistant Town Administrator (or equivalent public experience) and a Masters degree in Public Administration.” Hired in 2006, Suhoski has four years experience as Ayer’s Town Administrator. Previously, Suhoski worked as Ayer’s Economic Development Director. Suhoski also has a law degree from New England School of Law.


Suhoski declined comment Monday night.

Ayer Selectman Chairman Cornelius Sullivan commented on Monday, “Shaun has worked very hard for the Board of Selectmen and has been invaluable in assisting the Board with moving its agenda forward,” said Ayer Board of Selectman Chairman Cornelius Sullivan, “The Town Administrator’s position in Sturbridge would be a great career opportunity for Shaun and I wish him the very best in the selection process.”

“I would say, as many have said before me, balancing the demands of five Selectmen and the demands of a 7,400 person mini metropolis like Ayer is not easy,” said fellow selectman Jim Fay on Sunday. “Shaun has balanced those demands with success in very many areas. I am confident his municipal career will continue to be successful.”