At a brief Select Board meeting Tuesday night, the board unanimously approved the hiring of Ben Sweeney as senior accounting manager/town accountant.
A certified public accountant who grew up in Hopkinton, Sweeney had been serving as procurement and grants manager for the town since November of 2018. Previously he was the assistant controller at the Archdiocese of Boston.
Town manager Norman Khumalo had high praise for Sweeney. Khumalo pointed out that Sweeney, working with department heads, submitted applications to 27 competitive grant programs and acquired 13 grants worth $3.6 million, with eight applications still awaiting decisions. “That’s a very high strike ratio,” Khumalo noted.
“I see him as the entrepreneurial spirit incarnate,” Khumalo said. “He has, in his few months with the town, implemented a town-wide solution for making routine purchases to save time and money, and created SOPs [standard operating procedures] to streamline the procurement process, including a public bidding process for surplus property. He has participated in procurements across multiple departments.”
Added Khumalo: “Some of you may not realize this, because when we are presenting the budget in public mostly it’s the town manager and the CFO. What I want you to know is that in that process we have Ben as what I call the skeptic, who brings logic and reason into the budget development process. Why logic? He’s the one who is sticking up for the truth about the numbers that we present. Why reason? He is the critical thinker who compares the judgments that we’re making, the decisions that have been made in the past, now and in the future. He’s the one making sure that the scenarios we present, the projections that come along with those scenarios are accurate. He researches new and innovative ways to generate revenue and control expenses. … He is running multiple concurrent budget scenarios with a focus on tax impact, and also implements new tools in the budget reporting process to allow for quick and seamless updates, which in fact allows the town manager and the CFO to focus on the strategic aspects of the budget process.”
Sweeney said he was appreciative for his opportunities with the town.
“I am just so thrilled to be working here in this community that I grew up in,” he said. “My parents still live here, and I have a lot of family here. I’m just so grateful for it.”
The board instituted a hiring freeze during the pandemic but previously had approved making a hire for this position.
“Congratulations to Ben,” Select Board chair Brendan Tedstone said. “That is a well-deserved promotion. … I love when we can promote qualified people from town.”
Regarding the position Sweeney is leaving, Khumalo said: “At this point we have not made a decision whether to fill the grants manager and procurement position.”
Also during the meeting, Parks & Recreation Commission chair Dan Terry asked about putting two items on an upcoming agenda. One is to discuss the town manager’s suggestion to move the Parks & Rec Department from the office building at 85 Main St. to the building at 6 Walcott St., which is on land recently acquired by the town for the purpose of additional downtown parking. Terry opposes the move, saying it would have “a serious impact on the short-term and long-term operations of Parks & Rec.” The second item is in regard to the penalty for a parking ticket at the Sandy Beach parking lot. Terry suggested raising the fine from $20 to $100, noting that the current fine “has proven not to be a deterrent” to people without permits.
The board also met in executive session to discuss strategy with respect to pending litigation regarding Purdue Pharma.