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Few weigh-in on search for Town Manager

Date: 4/17/2012

April 16, 2012

By Chris Maza

LONGMEADOW — Longmeadow officials continue to meet with town residents through public forums in an attempt to gather as much information as possible on what they would like to see in a new Town Manager.

The second such forum took place on the morning of April 10 at the Longmeadow Adult Center with four residents in attendance.

Select Board Clerk Marie Angelides, who has been charged with overseeing the Town Manager search, explained that the Edward J. Collins Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts Boston has already composed a brochure and job description, but additional information would be passed on to the Search Committee, which will narrow down the potential candidates and present finalists to the Select Board.

"The purpose of this is not only for us to find out what the town needs, but also to get people involved in the process and as you get involved in the process, I think this person has a better chance of succeeding," she said.

Angelides further explained that the brochure was released electronically on April 9 state- and nation-wide. Print outs will also be available at the Adult Center and on the town website.

"We're doing a national search, though there is a preference to have someone local," he said. "In fact, there's a strong feeling that it should be someone in-town or who has been in town and knows Longmeadow, because, as one person said at the first forum, Longmeadow likes being Longmeadow and you have to understand what that is. But you still want to throw the net as far as possible."

Among the topics addressed was the possibility of re-writing the job description to relieve the Town Manager of additional duties as the Planning and Development Director.

Selectman Paul Santaniello explained that such a move could not be done because the job description is included in the charter.

"We can't because the charter is the law," he said. "When they did the charter revision, they specifically outlined the Town Manager's job. If we said as a Select Board that we wanted to take responsibility of XYZ, we can't without violating the charter."

Santaniello added that there are applications out for a Charter Review Committee, but they alone couldn't make any changes to the charter.

"Even if they came back and said, 'We think you should change that,' we would then have to form a Charter Commission and hold an election," he said.

Resident Eleanor Stolar questioned why the Town Manager would make more money than mayors and why that person would receive regular raises.

"I don't know why town managers get paid more than mayors," said Santaniello, who pointed out that Town Manager Robin Crosbie has not received a raise in four years. "I think even what the Collins Center is recommending is more than the mayor of the city of Springfield."

Resident Daniel Zwirko questioned why the town is paying $14,000 for the Collins Center to recruit candidates and advise the town and complained about the fact that the three members of the Select Board not on the Search Committee were able to appoint representatives without a transparent application process.

"This is one of the most expensive decisions that Longmeadow is going to make," Angelides responded. "You're putting in someone who is going to have the direction that the town is going to go and if you don't put in the correct person, it's going to be a very, very expensive mistake. [The Town Manager] is the one who sets the salaries for everyone, they decide the way the town is going to go, so you want to pick the best person, you want to get the most qualified and you want to have as much input as you can to make the right decision. It's like picking the CEO of a company.

"We looked at three to four different search companies and they all were the same amount of money. The reason we went with the Collins Center is because they know who the chief administrative officers are, they know all the town managers, they've worked in all the various towns and they know who is placed where. They know who might be considering leaving and have a personal connection to them," she continued.

Addressing the appointments, Santaniello said it was a process that was recommended by the Collins Center and approved by the Select Board in order to move the process along speedily while still incorporating a diverse group of people on the Search Committee.

He added that if the Search Committee had a majority of Selectmen, it would not have the benefit of going into executive session when discussing the resumes of candidates before finalists are announced.

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