Hybrid solution to help Naples with town manager hiring

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES —– After much discussion, Naples elected officials opted for a hybrid solution for the process of hiring a new town manager.

Current Naples Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak will start his new position with the Town of Gorham on Sept. 1 and is also doing job-shadowing in Gorham prior to that start date.

When it was brought up by a selectman that maybe Naples might have a replacement town manager four weeks after the process starts, Paraschak said, “Four weeks is optimistic.”

“I think you are looking at not having a town manager on board until mid- to late-October,” Paraschak said during Monday’s meeting.

The Naples Board of Selectmen has started the ball rolling by awarding bids to the companies that provided proposals to the town for the service of hiring Paraschak’s replacement.

The board-backed decision was to contact Maine Municipal Association (MMA) to utilize its network of town manager applicants and its thorough vetting process, and also to simultaneously contact Carter Terenzini, the former town manager in Moultonborough, N.H., who has helped many towns through this transition. The vote was, 4–0, with Selectman Bob Caron II absent.

Along with that motion, the town authorized a $4,900 expenditure to be taken out of the Undesignated Funds account. That is the cost of MMA’s services with fees included.

Prior to the vote Selectman Kevin Rogers summarized the suggestion he most liked, saying “We should vote to bring Carter in and consider MMA.”

Chairman Jim Grattelo agreed, saying, “A hybrid solution is an answer.”

Instead of taking on the cost of a 40-hour a week task, the town would counter-offer to have Terenzini “come to the Naples town office and work 20 hours a week and get to know the town, give us a report,” Grattelo said.

Selectman Rich Cebra was also in support of that approach.

“I like that idea — get fresh eyes in here. Contact MMA because MMA does their vetting process,” Cebra said.

The question on the table was how soon Terenzini would be able to devote his time to the Town of Naples.

“He is available Aug. 1. He is winding up a project,” Grattelo said.

Cebra said, “Get him in here and on a parallel track with us. Contact MMA” and have someone from that association provide the selectmen with a presentation and a list of potential candidates.

The Naples Board of Selectmen will adhere to its regularly-scheduled meeting to continue the town manager hiring process. There was talk of an additional Monday meeting. However, the next time the Naples board meets will be July 24.

Another topic discussed within the category of hiring a town manager was finding a candidate suitable for this particular community.

“The fit is so critical,” Grattelo said. “Naples is a unique town. Our industry comes off the water. Naples doesn’t have any industry. Our industry is the marinas, the restaurants, the small businesses,” he said, in reference to Naples’ renewable resource of tourism.

“The town has to come up with what they are looking for in a town manager. Thirty people could be qualified for the town manager position but only a few would actually be a good fit for Naples,” he said.

“It is a big decision. I think we are going to want to set up some type of advisory committee. We will want to develop a timeline” and a list of suitable candidates, Grattelo said.

“I think we should set up an advisory committee,” he said, “unless the board wants to invest all the time and do this themselves.”

Cebra responded to Grattelo’s idea of a subcommittee that reports to the selectmen.

“I don’t think we need to open it up too broadly. Make their input part of our needs assessment. We have a pretty good idea of what we need. It is nice to see what people think,” Cebra said.

Another topic was commitment.

Someone asked, “When we hire someone, is there a guarantee that that person will be here for a year or two?”

Grattelo answered that most town managers start with a two-year contract but there is usually an escape clause.

Paraschak explained that if a town manager is hired and, in the first two weeks, that person leaves, “a lot of these organizations will help you find another person” without an additional cost.

“I have never seen them stand behind a year or two,” Paraschak concluded.

“There is a lot going on in Naples right now. We don’t want a change three years from now,” Grattelo said.

“I am not afraid to spend a little bit of money to get this right,” he said.

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