SHIRLEY — With Town Administrator Patrice Garvin set to leave next week, selectmen on Tuesday night interviewed two finalists for the position of interim town administrator and sparred over the outcome.
In the end, the board voted two to one to offer the job to candidate number one, Travis Miller. Chairman Holly Haas cast the dissenting vote.
Pending successful contract negotiations, the new hire could start next Monday, Garvin said.
With the corner office covered, a search will be conducted to fill the position permanently and the interim administrator’s tenure hinges on how long that takes. It could be 4-5 months, Haas said.
Miller is a municipal management consultant with 20 years’ background in that field. But he has not been a town administrator before and that lack of experience worried Haase, who said she would not support hiring him. She’d prefer someone with job-specific credentials, she said.
The second hopeful, formerly the administrator in a small, western Massachusetts town, had the right stuff in terms of on-the-job know-how and demonstrated a savvy grasp of town government, from budget matters to union issues. But during deliberations after the candidates had left, Selectman Debra Flagg raised concerns. Citing a “red flag” that turned up in an Internet search, Flagg said she would rule out candidate number two for that reason. Cappucci agreed.
After some discussion, including back and forth about whether or not the board previously voted to hire one of the two finalists, based on the interviews, Haase also ruled out the second candidate.
But she still didn’t support the first, she said, suggesting that the board re-visit the interview process instead, this time drawing from a new pool of applicants whose resumes came in recently. The other two selectmen rejected that idea and Cappucci made a motion to offer Miller the job. He and Flagg voted yes. Haase voted no.
The board also met with two recruitment firms and debated which one to hire, voting two to one in favor of Groux-White Consulting, LLC. Richard J. White, one of the partner’s, made the successful pitch for his company. The firm will facilitate the search for a full-time, permanent Town Administrator, assisted by a community-based, volunteer search committee.
When it came to a vote, Haase said no. The other firm vying for the job was M.R.I., represented by its president.
The search, expected to take several months, will be headed up by the professional recruiter, with about $10,000 set aside to cover costs, including the firm’s fee and advertising. It will be assisted by a volunteer search committee, handpicked and appointed by the selectmen.
Slated for appointment on Wednesday, its members are Town Moderator Karen Luddington, Police Chief Samuel Santiago, Fire Chief Dennis Levesque, local business owner and former longtime town electrical inspector James Thibault, Town Clerk and Planning Board Chairman William Oelfke, ASRSD Superintendent Mary Malone and Finance Committee Chairman Bryan Sawyer. Each selectmen, per prior agreement, sought out two candidates for the committee, with Luddington having already agreed to serve.
According to the selectmen, the search process was mapped out this way so that the individual the board ultimately hires is the right fit for the job, based not only on his or her resume but also in terms of sharing their vision for town government. According to the recruiter, that vision is a key component in the search and will be mined from meetings with the board, department heads and others.
The selectmen’s stated intent is to conduct a search that is transparent, with public input, and non- political, with the BOS in the loop but not directly involved.
Explaining their picks for the search committee, each board member cited business and professional points as well as representation from community constituencies and key departments, such as public safety and the school district.
Haase said her choice of Sawyer was based not only on his financial expertise but also his generation. Young people like him “are the future of this town,” she said.