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Select Board chooses Crane to fill town manager vacancy

Date: 1/31/2013

By Chris Maza

LONGMEADOW — The Select Board voted on Jan. 28 to name Stephen Crane the next town manager, pending contract negotiations.

Crane, the city administrator for Lancaster, Wis., was chosen over two other finalists, Edward Gil De Rubio, most recently the city manager of Trinidad, Colo., and Great Barrington Town Manager Kenneth O'Donnell. All candidates met privately with members of the Select Board on Jan. 23 prior to public interviews, which took place on Jan. 24.

The board voted for Crane by a count of 4-1 with Selectmen Mark Barowsky, Marie Angelides and Richard Foster voicing strong support for him.

Barowsky said he felt Crane was "someone who could grow with the town" and appreciated the diverse experience he gained while working in Lancaster, Wis.

"[He] expressed an interest greater than anybody in wanting to be here," he said. "He's a younger guy with less experience, but I find him to be very bright and articulate. While his past experience hasn't been with a community as large as ours, it did force him to wear a lot of hats and I like the fact that he's had that experience of running the town."

Angelides said his approach to budgeting and working with department heads was a unique characteristic that made him stand apart from the other candidates.

"I liked when he talked about budgeting that it's 365 days a year, that he has to work constantly on the budget and he really knows what's going on underneath the budget," she said. "I liked his management approach where he talked about taking each of the department heads and having them give him a tour of the town. He says then he can see the town through their eyes. He's able to come from that [knowing what] the strengths and weaknesses of the departments are."

Angelides added that she was impressed with his experience with project management and grants.

Foster said that Crane was his first choice after initially reviewing the candidates and his opinion did not change in the subsequent interviews.

"I fully realize he didn't have a tremendous amount of experience, but the experience that he had was across the board," he said. "He had some very unique skillsets that no one else has brought to the table."

Chair Paul Santaniello issued the negative vote after stating in earlier conversations that he preferred Gil De Rubio.

"I based my decision on what I thought the town of Longmeadow needs, which is someone who has experience in municipal management [and] who has had a very diverse background his background with waterworks projects and so forth, but also in the cities and towns he has been employed in. He does have Massachusetts municipal experience with the town of Wrentham, which is what we were looking for," Santaniello said.

Gil De Rubio was controversially fired from his position by a 4-3 vote by the Trinidad, Colo., city council after members of the council accused him of allocating large sums of money without authorization, according to media reports.

"I thought that his character might have been impugned in his last position by someone in an elected position," Santaniello said. "If you look at the body of work, he by far has more positive experience of the eight or nine candidates we reviewed."

Vice Chair Mark Gold also voiced his support initially for Gil Del Rubio, but voted for Crane to avoid a deadlock. According to the Town Charter, a super-majority must be reached in order for a town manager to be selected.

Gold also voted to approve contract negotiations with Bourne Town Administrator Thomas Guerino to end a 3-2 deadlock in July 2010. Guerino and the town were unable to agree to terms.

"I think I am in the same position I was in several months ago," Gold said. "I think it's important that we recognize what we need and what we need is a town manager. Since we need a super-majority to elect the town manager, if nothing changes and five people dig their heels in, next month it's still going to be a 3-2 vote and that's not good for the town.

"I think that although I clearly prefer Edward Gil De Rubio for his experience and his management skills, there is not, in my mind, a large gap between him and Stephen Crane," he continued.

Should the Select Board and Crane reach a contract agreement, it will end a long saga for the town of Longmeadow that began in the fall 2011 when former Town Manager Robin Crosbie announced she would not seek a renewal of her contract. She officially left the town for the same job in Ipswich at the end of June 2012.

After the board failed to agree on a contract with Guerino after the first town manager search, a second group of candidates were interviewed and the board unanimously voted to hire Bonnie Therrien, however, she accepted a position with another community prior to the completion of a contract.

The town announced the hiring of Barry Del Castilho for the temporary position of acting town manager on Oct. 3, 2012 and in that capacity, Del Castilho orchestrated a third search for Crosbie's replacement, which yielded the three finalists recently interviewed.

The town manager position comes with an estimated salary of $115,000.