Town Manager Search Committee hashed out by Select Board

By Chris Maza
Longmeadow News

LONGMEADOW – At its July 1 meeting, the Select Board voted to approve a list of 11 members of various boards and committees and the public at large to work with Bernie Lynch, principal of Community Paradigm Associates, on the first phase of the process.

Mark Gold made a motion to accept School Committee Chair Armand Wray, Arlene Miller, Ryan Shenks, Charter Committee member Liz Bone, Marybeth Bergeron of the Building Committee, David Russell, Phil Hallahan of the Council on Aging, Finance Director Paul Pasterczyk, Bruce Colton of the Planning Board, Town Moderator Rebecca Townsend and an appointee of the Finance Committee as the core membership of the committee.

Size of the committee was a topic of much conversation before the vote. In a memo to the board, Lynch said he had worked with varying sizes from 3 to 11, but recommended a committee of 7, noting it would be “more manageable for schedules and focus.” It was noted in the meeting that Lynch said trying to get large committees to agree on meeting dates slowed the process.

The board agreed that Lynch would work to establish meeting dates and whether members could commit to those dates would determine their level of involvement on the committee. Town Manager Stephen Crane voiced concerns with the appointments prior to determining if the members could, in fact, attend the meetings. He said after their selection, members would be subject to Open Meeting Law and issues of quorum and records regulations. He instead suggested nominating those individuals, but Select Board chair Marie Angelides dismissed it.

“We’re going to tell Bernie he can manage his Town Manager Search Committee in the most efficient way he feels possible, which means dates are given out and, to the best of their ability, if they can’t make the dates, we understand the active group may be smaller,” she said.

With an 11 member committee, a quorum is six people. If six or more members meet to discuss town business, they would be subject to Open Meeting Law and would be required to legally post the meeting, record minutes and abide by other requirements of the law.

The board also agreed to set the experience requirement for the position at five years or more and the salary at $145,000+/-.

Lynch noted in his memo to the Select Board that the previous search called for 7 to 10 years of experience, but 5 or more years with a master’s degree in public administration or its equivalent was more common. Angelides pointed out that Lynch explained a large number of town manager vacancies make the original experience level difficult to achieve.

The town manager’s salary was advertised at between $115,000 and $135,000 during the search that yielded Crane. Crane’s starting salary in 2011 was $105,000. He was in the final year of a contract that was signed in 2016 with a salary of $140,000.

Lynch also utilized several regional examples to make a case for a higher salary. He said his firm recently worked with Palmer, who advertised a salary of $140,000, but the town eventually settled for lower. East Longmeadow Town Manager Denise Menard currently makes $140,000 and Amherst Town Manager is paid $170,000 while Sturbridge Town Administrator Jeff Bridges commands a salary of $150,000. Finally, in what he called “indicative of the current market for municipal managers,” Lynch advised the board that Berlin, a town of fewer than 3,000 people in Worcester County, recently hired a town administrator at approximately $150,000.

When asked by Gold what the “+/-” after the dollar amount means to applicants, Crane replied, “It means you want above that number and they’re going to offer you below that number.” Lynch also stated in his memo that the approach would allow the town to offer higher or lower based on specific qualifications while remaining competitive.

Crane’s final day as town manager will be Aug. 11 after he agreed on a three-year contract with a starting salary of $200,000 with the town of Concord and officially tendered his resignation on June 6. According to his contract, Crane was required to give the town 45 days notice. A reception for Crane will take place at the Community House on July 25 from 2 to 3:30 p.m.