At its meeting Thursday night, the Watertown City Council again interviewed the three finalists for the city manager position, including Hopkinton Town Manager Norman Khumalo. At the conclusion of the meeting, during a general discussion, six of the nine council members expressed a preference for George Proakis, who is Somerville’s executive director of Somerville’s Office of Strategic Planning & Community Development. The other three councilors did not indicate their choice.
“I will not change my mind, I will be voting for George Proakis.” stated City Council President Mark Sideris.
A vote will be taken at a future meeting.
The council members said they were impressed with all three candidates but credited Proakis for being more prepared and substantive, as well as having more impressive recommendations.
“John Curran is just a whiz with finances, and Norman Khumalo had me at ubuntu,” Councilor Caroline Bays said, referencing Khumalo’s use of the South African term for compassion and humanity. “Maybe at a different time, that would be what we would need. But at this time, at this point in our development and where we are as a city, I felt like George Proakis really got us. He fully understood what our issues are and our challenges. He understood what our values are. And most importantly, he had a vision. He has a vision for our future, he seems to know where we should go and has the knowledge to get us there.”
Added Vice Chair Vincent Piccirilli: “We have three great finalists. We are blessed to have three really good finalists to choose from. But I also get a sense that George Proakis was head and shoulders above the rest.”
Khumalo has served as town manager in Hopkinton since 2009.
During his introductory statement Thursday, Khumalo explained his reasoning for looking for an opportunity outside Hopkinton.
“I also am looking forward to working in a larger community, one that allows me to expand my professional accomplishments, curiosity, as well as being part of a community located in this part of the commonwealth, close to Boston, alongside the MassPike, but a community that has chosen to be uniquely itself,” he said. “I believe my accomplishments and successes over the years here in the U.S., in Zimbabwe and throughout Africa have given me the skills to partner, collaborate and be part of the team that moves this community forward.”
Khumalo also took part in a public interview forum on Monday.