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Selectmen interview town accountant candidates, including interim

Date: 1/15/2015

WILBRAHAM – The Board of Selectmen at its Jan. 12 meeting interviewed three candidates, including interim Town Accountant Nancy Johnson for the town accountant position.

The position became open after former Town Accountant JoAnne DeGray retired last year.

Johnson, who has been an assistant town accountant for nearly 22 years, told the board she was the most qualified candidate for the job because it would be a smooth, seamless transition and she was recently certified to be a governmental town accountant.

“I’ve always said that the Accounting Department is the hub of the town,” she added. “It really truly is. Every department, every committee, everything flows through our department; the payroll; [and] the employees. My job, first of all, is to maintain the financial records and but also to interface with all the committees and help prepare budgets.”

Johnson said one of her weaknesses has been delegation of duties. For the last three months, she’s been working as the interim town accountant, and has improved in that area.

“I’ve learned that it’s very beneficial to delegate your work,” she explained. “We have a temp in our office now and I was able to give him some of the work that I have done in the past and I just follow up with him and he did a great job.”

Johnson said she has been on the Capital Planning Committee for 18 years preparing five-year capital projects.

Another candidate for the position is Sandra Wrona, who is currently a deputy accountant in West Springfield and has been in that position for more than seven years. She also serves as a procurement officer for the city.

“I think that moving to Wilbraham, just getting used to the department heads and how each department functions [would be a challenge] and once you have a background, when you’ve been with the town you know which departments you can let go and, ‘They’re going fine,’ and which departments need more hand holding.”

The third candidate for the position was Christine Regan, a resident of Berkshire County who has been overseeing financing for nonprofit organizations for 17 years and was also a business administrator in two different school districts.

“I honestly don’t feel as if it would be difficult,” she added. “I’ve worked in smaller towns but I feel like this would be a return to where I’m most comfortable. “ 

The board did not fill the position. Chair Robert Russell said the board would likely determine that at a future meeting.

In other business, interim Town Administrator Thomas Sullivan said the Town Administrator Search Committee has identified a list of 10 candidates that it hopes to narrow down to three before the board begins its interview process.

The board also voted unanimously to transfer $7,000 from the reserve fund to pay for background checks that will be conducted by the University of Massachusetts Boston Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management.

The Collins Center was previously paid $7,000 to meet with community leaders, develop a profile of the community, and advertise the position.

A citizen’s petitioned non-binding referendum question regarding opposition to the Common Core State Standards educational framework as well as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) was also unanimously approved by the board. The referendum question will appear on the town election ballot. 

Joelene Guzzo, a town resident and member of Pioneer Valley United: Restore Massachusetts Education Standards, organized the citizen petition.

“I’m not here tonight to argue whether Common Core and the associated testing is good or bad,” she added. “In fact, some people here may actually like having standards. I’m simply asking for the opportunity to let the people, especially parents and teachers, be heard with this non-binding advisory poll.”

A rough draft of one of the poll questions asks whether an individual opposes the Common Core and if they agree that education decisions should be decided at the local level with the input of “a child’s main instructional influence, their parents and teachers.”

Guzzo said the goal of Pioneer Valley United is to meet with local government officials throughout Western Massachusetts in hopes of putting similar non-binding referendum questions before voters in other towns as well.

“This is the purest form of government; the best working form of government, and when citizens come forward I think it needs to be respected by people that you’ve elected,” Russell said.