After interviewing the three finalists for the position of permanent Town Manager last Thursday and then voting on which finalist was their top choice Tuesday night, the Stoughton Board of Selectmen are now one step closer to naming Stoughton's next chief municipal employee.
The Board voted unanimously, 5-0, Sept. 18 to express interest in Canton resident Michael Hartman becoming Stoughton's next permanent Town Manager, pending a background investigation and contract negotiations.
Hartman is the current Town Manager in Jaffrey, New Hampshire (2007-present). Prior to his job in Jaffrey, he worked in municipal government in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Iowa and Illinois.
Selectman Cynthia Walsh nominated Hartman. No other Board member made a nomination, with all five selectmen - Walsh, John Anzivino, Steve Anastos, Bob O'Regan and Chairman John Stagnone supporting the nomination of Hartman.
Paul Shew of Franklin and Kenneth Fields of Boca Raton, Florida were the other finalists Selectmen interviewed, along with Hartman, on September 13.
If the background investigation and initial negotiaions do not result in a formal job offer and contract for Hartman, Stagnone said the Board can look at one of the other finalists or start the search process over again.
At the start of Tuesday's meeting, Stagnone said the five-member Town Manager search committee (appointed by selectmen) and the consulting firm, Municipal Resources, Inc. (MRI), were charged with the task of finding a highly qualified and experienced candidate.
Selectmen were looking for someone with a graduate degree in public administration or a related field; 7-10 years of local government experience; a willingness to commit to the job for more than five years; strong public speaking skills; experience in downtown revitalization; long-range planning experience; collective bargaining and human resources experience; and strong finance and analytical skills.
Prior to fielding nominations, selectmen discussed their take on the September 13 interviews with the three finalists and what they were looking for in a Town Manager.
O'Regan said the town needed a focused, professional, hands-on manager - someone willing to get his knuckles dirty; someone dedicated to making systems work more efficiently and effectively; and someone committed to capital planning with strong budgeting and management skills.
"We had Judge [Francis T. Crimmins, Jr.] when we needed stability," Anastos said, crediting Crimmins for restoring credibility, integrity, accountability and transparency to the town. Now, in finding a replacement, Anastos said he was looking for "someone to steady the wheel and keep the [town] moving."
Anzivino said having an experienced manager with a "good strong background in municipal government" was key.
"We need a professional manager - someone who understands how Town Meeting works, how town government works," Walsh said.
Walsh didn't support the process or cost of hiring a consulting firm (about $20,000), but said she could not argue with the results. She said the decision to select a final candidate "has to be a leap of faith; there are no guarantees."
When it came time for the nominations, Walsh put her faith in Hartman, and when no other nominations were made, it became clear he was the candidate Selectmen felt best fit their criteria.
There were 55 applicants for the position. Less than 30 were sent essay questions. Telephone interviews were conducted with the final 13 candidates. Then, on September 12, a final group of seven candidates were interviewed by three separate panels - the Town Manager Search Committee; Stoughton Department Heads; and a group representing MRI. Following these panel interviews, which were not open to the public, the field of seven was narrowed down to three - Hartman, Shew and Fields.
Each of the three finalists have held management positions in multiple communities, but Stagnone said that to call any of the candidates "retreads" was an "unfair characterization of town managers in general."
During the September 18 meeting, held in the Yaitanes Room on the third floor of the Town Hall, selectmen held a conference call with Don Jutton of MRI prior to making their nomination. Jutton said the position of Town Manager has been "nomadic in nature" with the average tenure about four years when the economy was stronger and now about six years with a struggling economy making it more difficult to relocate.
He said Town Managers might seek a job in another town because they want to manage a larger community or because the complexion of the town's elected board has changed. Jutton said people "should not draw negative conclusions based on the number of jobs they had."
MRI will assist the town and the selectmen in conducting a background check and with contract negotiations. Stagnone and Anzivino will represent the Board during this process. A finite date for Selectmen to make a formal job offer to Hartman has not been set, although the contract of Interim Town Manager Joesph D. Feaster Jr. expires November 30.
Feaster became the interim Town Manager on April 1 of this year and was sworn in on April 3. Feaster was one of the final seven candidates, but was not one of the three finalists selectmen interviewed on September 13.
Feaster succeeded Crimmins who had served for two years as Stoughton’s Town Manager, before announcing his resignation in January 2012. Crimmins’ last day in office was March 31.
Michael Hartman (Brief Resume)
- Resident of Canton, MA
- Current Town Manager in Jaffrey, NH (2007-present)
- Past Town Administrator in Wareham, MA (2001-2007); Town Administrator in Medway, MA (1998-2001); Town Manager in Warren, RI (1995-1998); Assistant City Manager in Meriden, CT (1992-1995); Assistant to City Manager in Meriden, CT (1988-1991); Director of Community Services in Scott County, IA (1982-1988); Assistant Administrator for District 4 of the Iowa Dept. of Human Services (1979-1982); Project Manager for the Iowa Dept. of Social Services (1977-1979); Planning Specialist for Metro United Way in Rock Island, IL (1976-1977); Community Development Specialist in Scott County, IA (1974-1975)