WHITMAN — Selectmen on Tuesday, Dec. 22 voted to hire Hanover Finance Director and Treasurer-Collector Lincoln Heineman to serve as Whitman’s new town administrator.
He would succeed Frank Lynam who retired in mid-October.
Heineman and Assistant Town Administrator Lisa Green were placed in nomination for the vote during discussion, prior to which Green excused herself from the Zoom meeting.
The board also voted to begin contract negotiations with Heineman.
Four finalists had been interviewed by Paradigm Consulting representative Bernard Lynch and the board during a lengthy session on Friday, Dec. 18, also conducted remotely.
Also interviewed were Millville Town Administrator Peter Caruso and Shirley Town Administrator Michael McGovern.
“Bernie expertly asked them questions in what seemed like 75 hours [Dec. 18] and revealed a lot about each one of them,” Selectman Dr. Carl Kowalski said. “I was impressed with all of them.”
He joined with selectmen Randy LaMattina and Justin Evans in voting for Heineman based on his strength in financial matters. Heineman has worked with the state Office of Administration and Finance, the Inspector General’s Office and the Scituate Advisory Counsel as well as his work for Hanover.
“To me, it was clear by the interview process and the paper résumés that, in my opinion, there was somebody who stood out to me,” LaMattina said of Heineman. “It was talking about fiscal policy, forecasting, models — where will we be in five and 10 years — and not only talking about these things, but having first-hand knowledge, actually participating in the development of these things, not just a seat at the table where you watched it happen.”
Selectman Brian Bezanson and Chairman Dan Salvucci favored Green for her knowledge of the town and what they saw as the board’s loyalty to her. LaMattina countered that the board owes the town to select the strongest candidate, leaving friendships out of the equation.
After Heineman was selected, the board voted again to make Heineman’s appointment unanimous.
The full interviews, in addition to the Dec. 22 Selectmen’s meeting, can be viewed on the WHCA-TV YouTube channel.
“I thought all candidates brought plenty to the table — everybody had their strengths and weaknesses — and I think we probably couldn’t go wrong with any of them,” said Bezanson. “We’ve made a commitment and an investment to Lisa Green.”
Bezanson argued that former Town Administrator Frank Lynam had been charged with training Green, hired to be his assistant, in all aspects of the job.
“I think that we showed faith in her then and, while maybe she has some shortcomings in the financial part, I believe if she were to get this job … and we hired an assistant town administrator who was proficient in financial aspects that she was deficient in, it would create quite a team.”
Speaking first during the discussion, nominated Green — possibly to a short-tem contract at first — to give her the chance to prove herself in the job.
“We had faith in her then, we [gave] a commitment to her then, I believe that we should do that now,” Bezanson said.
Salvucci moved to second Green’s nomination, which drew a point-of-order objection from LaMattina, who noted the chairman cannot second a motion without first passing the gavel. Salvucci at first suggested passing the gavel to Lynch, but Lynch noted it should be passed to another board member. Kowalski assumed the gavel long enough to allow Salvucci to second Bezanson’s motion, before noting the process was intended to give each selectman an opportunity to speak before nominations were made.
Kowalski congratulated Paradigm for the process, which brought four good candidates before the board for final consideration.
Like Bezanson, Kowalski said he has known Green both as a Selectman and an assistant town administrator for a number of years.
“She is someone who is capable and does a good job,” he said. But he said he was pleasantly surprised by Caruso after he interviewed, as he had questions about Caruso’s résumé, which showed a lot of experience with startups as well as in the position of town administrator. McGovern’s experience with vocational schools in the Lowell and Nashoba region was also impressive, according to Kowalski, but found him to be a “Lowell guy, a city guy.”
LaMattina noted that Heineman has knowledge of South Shore Tech.
“Lincoln Heineman, on the other hand is a real star,” Kowalski said. “He has a unique way of looking at finances and he’s done some things that have been unusual and very successful. He’s a South Shore guy,” Kowalski said. “One of Lisa’s qualities that makes her so desirable is that she is a Whitman person.”
LaMattina agreed with Kowalski, but stressed what was important when the search process started for his primary goal.
“That was somebody I could count on to continue on the road of financial recovery and stabilization that this board has set … in motion,” he said.
LaMattina said Whitman faces a tough financial year and needs to continue on the path of finding solutions through policies and procedures as well as economic development knowledge.
“We need a fiscal policy,” he said. “It’s where we are lacking.”
Evans agreed that Heineman was the best choice.
“Really, we had a ‘choose your own adventure’ situation when we first saw the résumés and heard the candidates during interviews,” he said, while crediting Green with her capacity and commitment to further her education in the job. Evans said he hopes she stays on and learns from Heineman.
“I was taking notes on things he has done in Scituate and Hanover that he might bring to Whitman,” he said.
For his part, Salvucci was concerned about the “jumping around” to different jobs on the part of Heineman and McGovern. He suggested the town accountant could teach Green anything she doesn’t already know.
“I like townies,” he said. “I like to promote from within.”
He credited Green with being a hard worker who has already shown capacity for improving her skills.
In other business, Green updated the board on positive COVID test results for the previous two weeks.
“Interestingly enough, Whitman is not the lead in this race,” Green said. “We seem to be right in line with our surrounding towns — our neighbors.”
There were 142 positive test results for that period, or an 8.71 percent positive rate. Abington, meanwhile, saw 183 positive tests, or a 9.8 percent positive rate. With 105 positive tests, Hanson is at 9.61 percent and Bridgewater’s 316 positive tests puts that town at 6.90 percent. East Bridgewater’s 149 positive tests puts them at 8.42 percent and Halifax is at 8.29 percent with its 73 positive tests.
“COVID seems to be running rampant around all of the communities right now,” Green said, noting the new state restrictions going into effect between Dec. 26 and Jan. 10.
She said Town Hall employees are required to wear a mask anytime they leave their desks and walk around the building. Selectmen voted to approve the restictions.
Whitman is requiring any employee with a potential exposure must notify their department head immediately, that official then must inform the town administrator or interim who then notifies the Board of Health. The level of contact will be evaluated to determine the time frame of the exposure.
Exposure of 15 minutes or more is deemed to be at risk and the employee is required to quarantine for 10 to 14 days. The Board of Health then follows up with contact tracing.
“Each case has its unique factors,” Green said. “At least this protocol will let the employee know who they should contact first and then we go from there.”
Kowalski emphasized that the Board of Health are the people who should be giving advice to Selectmen.
“People in Town Hall need to follow it,” he said, adding that just wearing a mask when employees leave the office may not be enough. He advocated for requiring masks anytime someone leaves their desk, even if it is just to go somewhere else in the office.
“This is not a good time,” Kowalski said. “It’s time to remain extra vigilant. Masks and social distancing make a big difference, but they have to be used consistently and not really at people’s choices at whether they feel comfortable doing it.”
LaMattina concurred, noting the Town Hall is a 100-year-old building with “not the greatest air flow.”
Evans urged preparing for the possibility that Town Hall staff could be required to work remotely from home, as well.
Selectmen also voted to call for a Civil Service list to open a place for Whitman at the police academy.