Deputy town manager position okayed

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Selectmen voted March 11 to authorize Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz to fill a newly-created position of Deputy Town Manager. The position, after the Deputy Town Manager’s probationary period has passed, would replace the position of Executive Assistant, which would then be eliminated.

The vote was 3–2, with Selectmen Paul Hoyt and Bob McHatton opposed. Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz, who is retiring in late summer after nine years, suggested creating the position, in large part so that his replacement as town manager can have more time to work on some of the bigger policy directives from the board.

Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said he will fill the position through an internal job opening posting open to all municipal department employees. In the view of resident Venessa Jones, the new Deputy Town Manager position “could appear to be a position created for a certain individual,” referring to current Executive Assistant Georgiann Fleck.

Fleck is a longtime town employee who has served as interim town manager during transition periods when the town was searching for a new town manager.

The Deputy Town Manager position differs from Executive Assistant primarily in allowing for supervision of department heads and disciplinary authority.

In arguing against the new position, King said, “I don’t think the town needs two managers. That’s basically what you’re doing.” He favored delaying the decision until after a new town manager is hired.

Chairman Doug Taft said past practice has been for the executive assistant to fill in when the town manager is away or unable to perform his duties, and to keep selectmen informed. However, the executive assistant was being asked to take on responsibilities without having the formal authority to do so, he said. The new position formalizes the relationship, spelling everything out.

Resident Chuck Renneker told the board “It seems your purpose is to reward a person for good service to the town,” referring to Fleck, who is known as the “go-to” person for information needs at the Municipal Complex. If that’s the case, he said, “You could just modify the title without creating a whole new position.”

Jones pointed out that if the executive assistant is not hired for the deputy town manager job,  “Basically, you’re going to be firing someone.”

Berkowitz said the town is a growing service center hub and “We need to prepare ourselves for future opportunities” by freeing up the town manager to focus on long-term policy and development issues.

Bob McHatton initially made a motion, seconded by Paul Hoyt, not to allow Berkowitz to fill the position, but that vote failed 2–3.

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