SHIRLEY — Town Administrator Patrice Garvin’s management style might rub some town hall employees the wrong way, but after three years on the job, her bosses — the Board of Selectmen — are clearly pleased with her work.
Paging through the administrator’s annual evaluation form Monday night, each of the three board members rated Garvin’s job performance at or near the top in all 14 categories on the check list.
To begin with, the form calls for a self evaluation, Selectmen Chairman Robert Prescott said, and Garvin’s included “quite a lengthy list of 2015 accomplishments” with goals and objectives for the coming year.
Explaining the ratings criteria on a scale of one to five, the selectmen gave Garvin a four for most of the items, five on a couple and one three, which means “meets expectations.”
Selectman David Swain gave her a three for “Relationships with People.” But he qualified the mediocre rating with a positive spin. “I’ve seen some improvement in dealing with the public,” he said.
Garvin chimed in on this one, noting that the people part of her job had been difficult due to actions she’d taken on the board’s behalf, such as restructuring town government, redefining or combining jobs and in general shaking up the landscape in town hall, which has seen a flurry of recent resignations.
“It’s been the biggest challenge for me,” Garvin said. Citing a “cultural shift” at town hall, she said that some employees who are accustomed to doing things a certain way object to changing the system and in some cases there’s been pushback.
Dumont empathized. “She takes the heat, but we asked.”
In a few other instances, Swain’s assessment fell between four and five, so he coined a new rating: 4 1/2.
For “Initiative and resourcefulness,” Garvin got a five from Swain, and a four from the other board members.
“She reaches out to board members for input and has been responsive to it,” Swain said, noting an irksome lack of such outreach when other administrators occupied the corner office.
Selectman Kendra Dumont said she gave Garvin a four for that item but now thinks it should have been five, citing almost daily calls to keep her informed. Being left out of the loop in terms of town affairs was her own pet peeve, Dumont explained. Now, however, she can’t recall a single time when she’s been blindsided by a citizen’s complaint about a matter she knew nothing about, she said.
All three selectmen gave Garvin a five for “Planning/Goal Setting,” which includes use of her time.
“She’s reallocated funds, reconfigured departments and saved the town money,” Prescott said.
They all gave Garvin a four for communication skills and a five for budget management.
“She consistently makes the budget work,” Prescott said, delivering more to the community.
Dumont said she anticipates continued improvement in the budget and hopes Garvin will help the town move toward a sustainable future.
Garvin also got a five from all three selectmen for “Problem Solving Skills,” a category Prescott added.
Swain said his rating was based mostly on “stuff the public doesn’t see.”
“She’s willing to work long hours,” Prescott said and has focused on “raising the level of professionalism in town government.”
Wrapping up with comments, Swain said Garvin is a “hands on administrator all the way,” from offering opinions to the board to working with other boards, department heads and committees, especially the Economic Development Committee and the recently decommissioned Budget Coordinating Committee, which has recommended that the board forward a Proposition 2 1/2 tax override to help improve town finances this year.
Amid all the praise, the board also gave Garvin some self-help tips.
Prescott advised “taking the long approach” when dealing with school officials.
Dumont suggested continuing education such as advanced training and courses.
Improved public communication is still a work in progress, but “we’ve made strides,” Swain said, citing Garvin’s use of social media as a step in the right direction. “It’s a great tool.”