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Herr urges Select Board to take slower pace with new town manager hire

by | May 22, 2024 | Featured: News, News

New Select Board chair Brian Herr urged the town to slow down the hiring process for the new town manager during Tuesday night’s meeting, calling for public engagement with the finalists for this key town role.

Human Resources Director Jessica Lewerenz explained that a review committee has been established. Members include Lewerenz, Select Board member Shahidul Mannan, Personnel Committee members Patricia Duarte and Patricia Sinicole, school Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh and citizen representative Meena Bharath, a former School Committee member.

Consultant Community Paradigm, who assisted in the fire chief search, is working on the town manager search. The firm handles roughly 60% of the state’s town manager searches. Nineteen candidates applied for this position. The candidate field is expected to be narrowed to three by late June.

Herr proposed the idea of a “meet and greet” with all three finalists to allow public interaction with the finalists.

He then urged the process not to be rushed, as the consultant proposed that the candidates be interviewed before the summer vacation season.

“I have zero concerns about the timing and slowing this thing down,” he said.

Herr explained that he was involved in the town’s first town manager search in 2007, he said, which produced a person who ultimately did not succeed in the role. More time was taken in the next search when Norman Khumlo was hired. Khumalo remained in the position for 15 years before leaving for a private sector position.

Said Herr: “I do think we need to slow this down and get it right.”

Clark calls for shift in deputy fire chief search strategy

New Select Board member Joe Clark asked that the search strategy for the deputy fire chief be modified out of his concern about internal candidates having an opportunity for promotion.

As the son of the town’s former veteran fire chief, this issue resonated with Clark.

Hopkinton Fire Chief Gary Daugherty explained that the department has never done an outside search for candidates before. The outside candidate search contract would need to be put out to bid. He added that it was “the direction of the board to search externally.”

Clark asked if there were “better things the money could be used for.”

Replied Daugherty: “Of course, sir.”

Clark suggested “exploring internal candidates first” to save money to put toward other department priorities like equipment and training. Searching externally could also affect department morale, he noted.

Herr asked about where the process currently stands.

The review committee for this search has been established, according to Lewerenz, and the position has yet to be posted. The committee consists of Select Board member Mary Jo LaFreniere, Daugherty, Lewerenz, Lazarus and citizen representative Bob Levinson. Member Shahidul Mannan previously advocated for a citizen representative to be included in both the deputy fire chief and town manager searches. Lewerenz currently is searching for an outside chief to complete the committee.

She added that the vendor contract “is for the assessment center only” at a cost of $10,000.

“Nothing precludes hiring from within,” said LaFreniere. “We’re just trying to open the field to get the best candidates out there.”

Herr asked the fire chief and Lewerenz to look at advertising the position “externally with internal folks.” This information will be presented at an upcoming meeting.

Select Board member Amy Ritterbusch noted that the last three chiefs have been internal candidates.

Deputy police chief process moves forward

Lewerenz explained that 12 applicants applied for the deputy police chief position. Their applications initially were screened by vendor Public Safety Consultants and responded to an essay question.

Six candidates advanced to an interview with the review committee. The review committee consists of Lewerenz, former Select Board chair Muriel Kramer, interim Town Manager Elaine Lazarus, Hopkinton Police Department Chief Joseph Bennett, Natick Police Chief James G. Hicks and Duarte.

Four semifinalists were tested at the assessment center. The final three finalists are expected to appear before the Select Board for their final interviews in June.

New employees hired

In other employment news, the Select Board unanimously proved the hiring of two people. Anh Fahey was named as assistant treasurer/collector and Thomas Iversen as the food service worker for the Hopkinton Senior Center.

Entertainment license approved for HPTO carnival

The Select Board unanimously approved the entertainment license application by the Hopkinton Parent Teacher Organization for a four-day carnival after discussing concerns about previous participants’ behavior and littering.

The carnival will take place from June 27-30 at the senior and staff parking lots in front of Hopkinton High School. The hours will be from 6-10 p.m. on June 27 and 28, 1-10 p.m. on June 29 and 1-9 p.m. on June 30.

Select Board members noted concerns about the noise, and the prevalence of cigarette butts and trash. A private detail will be hired to monitor the event.

Herr suggested that because of these issues, the HPTO consider moving the carnival site in the future, potentially to the Fruit Street fields.

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