High Marks For Town Manager In Annual Evaluation

LONGMEADOW, MA – Town Manager Stephen Crane just underwent his annual evaluation, and overall, the results are positive. According to Select Board Chairman Thomas Lachiusa, Crane scored a 4.01 out of a possible five points in evaluations completed by all members of the board.

The Select Board reviewed and shared the results during a recent meeting, praising Crane for his accomplishments last year and offering constructive feedback on potential areas of improvement. Lachiusa said Crane received high scores in the categories of budget preparation, relationships with media and the community, and human resources management.

Although Lachiusa said Crane “didn’t do poorly in any area,” he noted feedback is important in helping identify areas that might need extra attention. Lachiusa shared some of the comments made by Select Board members in their evaluations, all of which Crane has had the opportunity to read in their entirety.

Some concerns included the opening, closing and re-opening of the town meeting warrants; shortcomings within the capital budget process; a need for more delegation of tasks, and defending bad decisions made by subordinates.

While Select Board members praised Crane for his work in moving the Department of Public Works (DPW) project forward, some felt the large amount of time he invested in it came at the expense of other town projects and issues.

Lachiusa noted other comments from Select Board members included, “He needs to be more fully accepting of the notion that there are other worthwhile solutions to solving problems than his own first instinct.”

“He’s doing much better, but he needs to work on a better bedside manner when confronted with differing opinions than his own,” Lachiusa read.

On the flip side, Lachiusa noted there were many positive comments and observations in the evaluation. The Select Board members noted Crane’s “monumental success” this year at town meeting, where all items were approved over the course of two nights. They stated that Crane’s reports to the Select Board are “well-researched and detailed,” and he is always available for one-on-one meetings. They also noted his responsiveness to Select Board requests, and his willingness to answer questions quickly and appropriately when the town is the focus of media attention.

One Select Board member stated Crane should receive “more than a five” rating for his work on preparation of the town budget, noting that he trimmed waste in town departments but also managed to include funds in the budgets that aligned with Select Board policies and priorities.

“Our budget continues to be recognized by the state as an example of best practice,” Lachiusa read.

Crane was also praised for his relationships with department heads and other town employees.

“The town manager considers our employees his family, and he has created a strong bond in all ranks,” it stated in the evaluation. He was given kudos for helping develop a better relationship with the School Committee, and for his work in completing several collective bargaining agreements this year.

The Select Board said Crane does well working with legislators and the press, and is adept at handling a crisis.

Select Board member Richard Foster said he sees the highlighted areas of improvement as a “gentle nudge.”

“They are just something to think about, because overall our town manager is doing a fantastic job,” he said. “I don’t want people to get the wrong impression (about Crane’s performance). We are light years away from where we were on day one, when this board met our new town manager. A lot of great stuff is happening under the radar. I take my hat off to Stephen. He’s doing a great job.”

All of the Select Board members agreed, with Marie Angelides stating: “Now that we’ve gotten out of your way, we see how much you can do. This is your fourth year in the position, and there’s been a lot of growth on both sides. It’s been a fabulous year. It was difficult at times, but we got through it together.”

Crane thanked the Select Board members for their comments and said he is working toward some specific goals that will address the areas of improvement outlined in the evaluation.

“It’s been an interesting evolution over the past four years,” Crane said. “I feel great about our accomplishments, and I feel like some of the tough times made us better at reaching those goals. There’s still a lot to do, and I’m looking forward to another year.”

– Article by Sarah Leete Tsitso