HARWICH — Town Administrator Christopher Clark was named a finalist for the town administrator's position in Yarmouth on Tuesday. The final decision is not anticipated until after another round of interviews is conducted, which are scheduled to take place on Nov. 19.
The Yarmouth Town Administrator Search Committee presented the names of two finalists to selectmen on Tuesday evening. They had planned to present three finalists, but one of the candidates dropped out on Friday. The message to selectmen from the search committee was that they were disappointed there were not three finalists, but the two candidates are “absolutely qualified…and can step in and do the job.”
Harwich Selectmen and Clark on Monday night discussed the upcoming town administrator review process and went over goals and objectives for FY17. Four months into the fiscal year it was still not clear Monday how selectmen want to move forward with Clark's assessment and measurement of accomplishments on the goals and objectives provided by the board.
Board members, after more than an hour and a half of discussion on Monday night, could not come to a consensus. The goals and objectives were approved by a 3-2 vote of the board. Clark in the past has been dissatisfied with assessments provided by some board members in his performance reviews.
Clark was looking for a three-year contract extension this past spring but was given a two-year extension on a 3-2 vote. But the board held back on issuing him a 2 percent salary increase, citing the need for improvements. Clark pointed out on Monday he was the only one in management who did not receive the 2 percent increase this year. Selectmen are scheduled in December to provide another performance review.
“I'm proud of the work I've done here,” Clark said. “But here it hasn't been as good of a fit as I'd like.”
Clark said he applied for the Yarmouth town administrator job along with three other positions, two in central and one in western Massachusetts.
“The best of luck to Chris Clark,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Michael MacAskill said when told of Clark's status in Yarmouth. “It's my sense he's had one foot out the door for a couple of years now. When we extended his contract he assured the board and the taxpayers he wouldn't leave the job and here he goes.”
Clark admitted to being frustrated with the absence of recognition for the work he has done in his nearly three years here. He also cited financial stress with two children in college, paying rent here on the Cape and having a mortgage on a home in Sturbridge.
His first two years on the job, Clark said, he got the 2 percent raise, and he counts on it to meet his financial obligations. He cited his 27 years as a public administrator and pointed to the larger salaries of other town administrators in Chatham, Orleans and Eastham, communities where the populations and budgets are smaller.
“I like the Yarmouth opportunity,” Clark said. “It has a stronger town administrative role. I've interacted with Bob Lawton (former Yarmouth town administrator) and he has spoken highly of it as a great place to work. Either I stay down here and make a little bit more money or head back there to the house.”
He expressed frustration with the board of selectmen, citing the 3-2 vote extending his contract for two years. Clark also noted his frustration with the goals set by the board and the way he is graded on accomplishments.
“If I get every single goal but one done, there is not a shadow of a doubt I'll be graded down,” he said. “We can't have a work environment that is arbitrary and capricious in nature. It's been a struggle to accomplish goals and have them recognized. It's a major frustration.”
Clark said he has been criticized over email issues and delays in responses. But, he added, he gets 50 to 100 emails a day and he is slow in responding to some because he has more important work to accomplish. He admitted to making the decision email responses are secondary to the workload.
“How can you produce so many good things and not be recognized and then (the board) gives such weight to such small things,” Clark said. “They give me a contract extension, but no pay increase and I'm making $13,000 less than the town manager in Chatham.
“In the final analysis my family comes first. I think I'm a capable administrator and there has to be some reciprocity, respect for that. Public administrators deal with politics all the time, but the financial issues I'm having, it has a wearing affect.”
Clark said when he first came on board times were not easy. A number of longtime employees were stepping down and he had to step in an fill those positions. He also said when he arrived communication with department heads was a little chilly, but he attributed that to the previous administration.
“I've turned that around,” he said.
Clark said he has a good working relationship with department heads and he praised the working relationship he has with Monomoy Regional School District. He also cited the strong relationship he has with the finance committee and capital outlay committee.
The financial condition of the town has improved, he said, citing his effort to double financial reserves and the positive free cash numbers. He also pointed to the efforts with Chatham working through the complexity of 20 regulatory agencies to get the Muddy Creek Bridge project in place and receiving 75 percent of the funding for the $6 million project through grants.
“The response from selectmen was 'oh, it's just a bridge project,'” he said.
Clark and former Westfield mayor Daniel Knapik are the two finalists for the Yarmouth position.