HANSON — Economic development, communication between town departments, the need for a new library and senior center, as well as the role of the position in town government itself, were among the issues raised Monday, Sept. 16 at listening sessions held by the firm heading the search for Hanson’s next town administrator.
Principals from Municipal Resources Inc., (MRI), a Meredith, N.H., recruiting service met with Selectmen, department heads, boards, committee members and interested residents at two sessions centering on qualities the town wants.
They also wanted to discuss challenges and opportunities ahead for the town in the next five to 10 years.
MRI team members Robert Mercier and Reginald “Buzz” Stapscynski held an afternoon session the Hanson Multi-Service Senior Center and met in the evening at the Selectmen’s meeting room in Hanson Town Hall.
“I ran a major corporation for 25 years,” said Library Trustee Chairman Corinne Cafardo. “The salary for a town administrator is low.”
Stapscynski said Selectmen have done a good job moving the salary up to a more competitive level.
There have been 13 résumés that have come in so far, but that is not a cause for concern, Mercier said, noting that in a typical 30-day ad run for a position, the serious candidates wait until the last week.
Résumés are then scored by MRI on experience and job history and pre-interview them via essay questions, within a 10-day window, on how they would approach issues like those facing Hanson. They then present a list of between three and six finalists to the appointing authority and attend the final interviews.
“This is a very easy community to talk about [with people they recruit], you’ve got a great reputation,” Stapscynski said. “We check out the communities ourselves. … You folks have a good reputation in Boston with the Department of Revenue. You must be doing everything right.”
He said there would be signs if that were not the case, and that they both know and hear positive things about the community.
“The challenge is that you’ve been through a number of administrators over a number of years, so the word we get from selectmen is stability,” Stapscynski said. “You want someone to stay for awhile and invest in the community.”
“Our role is not to set up somebody for failure,” Mercier said, adding that they think Hanson is a good, solid community.
Both Stapscynski and Mercier have town executive experience in Massachusetts and have also conducted capital improvement plans and consolidation studies in other places. Stapscynski said.
Mercier said the town executive officer community is a small one and issues of stability can raise concerns, but with the right information, they can talk applicants through such concerns.
“We want to seriously get input from anybody who wants to comment,” Mercier told the handful of board and committee members at the evening session. He said he and Stapscynski had already spoken with all five selectmen as well as department managers.
Mercier said what they wanted to hear about were the type of qualities and characteristics that residents and officials think would work in Hanson. The train station and its parking are a true asset for the town, he said.
“It’s an exciting time as people are retiring out,” Stapscynski said. “But there’s this whole cadre of young people coming up.”
Former Selectman Bruce Young said he was interested in how the current process differs from the screening committee process that selected former Town Administrator Michael McCue.
“No matter how good you screen people, there’s the human quality of life,” he said. “People have these things that you don’t see that turn up maybe six months later or a year later that you wish you had known.”
Young also wanted to know if applicants were aware of the limitations of the position as outlined in the Town Administrator Act.
Stapscynski said the internet allows the MRI staff to unearth “just about all” there is to know about candidates. They ask selectmen to appoint any finalist they select on a tentative basis, depending on a background check and negotiation of a contract.
Mercier said the MRI president and CEO is a retired police chief who has access to “places I can’t go.” The confidential final report is extensive.
“We know a lot of these people,” Mercier said. “We know things that aren’t public about some people and we would not move an individual — if there’s a problem — forward to the board. That’s one of the reasons you hired us.”
He reminded the audience that if the search is not successful, they will do it again free of charge, a situation that has only happened once before.
Planning Board Chairman Don Ellis said he was interested in seeing a candidate with economic development experience, especially in the Route 27 corridor.
“The biggest problem is sewerage — we need sewerage down in that area because it’s an aquifer protection area,” Ellis said. He also expressed concern about a heavy-handed approach to dealing with town department heads.
Conflict resolution skills and working within a regional school district were also discussed.
Retired Board of Assessors member Kathleen Marini said she was concerned about the town’s success in applying for and obtaining grants and the need for sidewalks in town. She was also concerned about the next town administrator having a working knowledge of the South Shore.
“A good administrator will figure that out,” Mercier said. “They’ll be driving around town now.”
Cafardo said she has become more involved in the town since retiring and expressed concern about the need for a new senior center and library.
“Those two are very important to me,” she said. “What I would like to see is a town administrator who is pro-library.” She said the library is more than books, providing eBooks and programs for all age groups.
“We are very active, but the building was too small to begin with,” Cafadro said. “In the five years I’ve been a trustee only one town administrator has been to a meeting when invited. The past one came on his own.”
She also pointed to use of the library as a job search and résumé preparation resource, the latter service she provided in an urgent situation during the last recession.
“That’s not what a library really does, is write people’s résumés,” she said.
Conservation Commission Chairman Phil Clemons noted the importance of preserving Hanson’s conservation lands, rural atmosphere and water independence.
“There is a need to balance things,” he said. “We try not to miss opportunities to do something green and sustainable whenever [the town can].”