Simmons selected as next town manager

By Chris Maza

LONGMEADOW – The Select Board unanimously voted to offer the vacant town manager position to Lyn Simmons at its Oct. 2 meeting.

Simmons, currently serving as the chief of staff for Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, was one of three finalists for the position. The Town Manager Search Committee along with Community Paradigm Associates gathered and vetted 25 applicants and conducted initial interviews with eight. Simmons ultimately beat out fellow finalists Scott Szczebak, the human resources director for the town of Wellesley and former Chicopee mayor’s aide and human resources director, and Paul Fahey, chief of staff for Methuen Mayor James Jajuga.

The board announced on Oct. 9 that it had successfully negotiated a contract with Simmons. She will take over for Interim Town Manager Jay Moynihan the week of Nov. 10.

“I’m honored to have been selected as Town Manager. Longmeadow is a beautiful community with engaged and active residents. I look forward to working with the Select Board and getting to know the department heads, employees, and town residents,” she said.

Simmons started in Northampton in 2004, serving in various roles and was the mayoral aide to former Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins as well as Narkewicz from 2011 to 2014 when Narkewicz created the chief of staff position and elevated her to that role. Earlier in 2014, she was selected to become Southampton’s town administrator but ultimately failed to agree with the town on a contract.

“I love it; don’t see myself in any other field,” Simmons said of municipal government during her interview. “I have progressively risen up [and] have no elected office aspirations, so logically, the next step for me from Chief of Staff would be town administrator or town manager.”

Following interviews with the finalists, the selectmen agreed that they were impressed with the breadth of her municipal experience.

“I liked the fact that when there is a problem, it seems, in Northampton, they pick up the phone and call Lyn because she’s going to pick it up, she’s going to get it done and get it over the finish line,” Select Board Chair Marie Angelides said.

“Sixteen years is quite a bit of experience. She’s in the middle of all kinds of different issues, conflicts; I would describe her as a problem solver,” Selectman Marc Strange said. “I like the fact that she utilizes the Massachusetts Municipal Association and leverages their best practices and their networks.”

Several members of the board also lauded Simmons for her abilities as a communicator.

“It sounds like she has developed a lot of good relationships in her position in Northampton and she’s built respect and trust with people. I see that as a very important thing,” Selectman Thomas Lachiusa said, adding he appreciated her focus on “helping people understand the ‘why’ behind certain things that are going to happen in town.”

The selectmen also voiced confidence in her ability to work with different personalities, both in the community and on the Select Board.

Selectman Richard Foster said he found her to be “very smooth in her presentation when answering questions with no hesitation” and noted she “exudes a lot of confidence” when answering questions.

Selectman Mark Gold also noted that her willingness to perform self-evaluation and acknowledge and correct mistakes was notable, referencing her discussion on the controversial removal of public benches in Northampton.

“I think the ability in a municipal government to admit a mistake and step back is pretty impressive,” he said.

Board members also said they were impressed with Simmons’ time management and goal setting strategies as well as her work on projects including a comprehensive wage analysis program and LED lighting conversions.

Simmons said during her interview that Longmeadow was a familiar place, having completed her undergraduate studies at Bay Path University. She also achieved her master’s degree in public administration locally at Westfield State University.

Simmons is a Northampton native.

If negotiations are successful, Simmons would become the third town manager in the town’s history, succeeding Stephen Crane, who served in the position for six years.