Administrator Search Companies Make Their Pitch

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: Board of Selectmen News

Harwich news.

HARWICH — Selectmen will soon be putting together a request for proposal for town administrator search companies to assist the committee they have put together to screen candidates to fill the town's chief executive position.

On Monday night the board heard presentations from Groux-White Consulting, LLC and Community Paradigm Associates. The board was looking for some foresight into the services companies provide when conducting searches.

Thomas Groux told selectmen both he and his partner, Richard White, are quite familiar with Harwich, pointing out he served as town manager in Chatham and White served as town administrator in Dennis.

Bernard Lynch, principal, and Sharon Flaherty, senior associate, were representing Community Paradigm Associates. Lynch said he was the first town administrator in Chelmsford and has served as city manager in Lowell. He defined his company as the “most active recruiting firm in Massachusetts.” Flaherty is a former journalist who for 25 years covered a lot of municipalities for a daily newspaper.

Selectmen have made it clear they want the search committee to see each of the applications filed. Groux said they will obtain applications and work from the beginning to the end with the search committee and then with selectmen to reach the final decision. He emphasized the applications are confidential. White said they have had success in delivering qualified candidates; they provide an 18-month guarantee the person hired will remain, and if not, they will provide the next search for free.

Lynch said there has been turnover in more than half of the town management positions in the state in the last three years. He said the cause is generational turnovers and communities deciding to make a change. His firm has been active on the Cape, providing a manager in Bourne, Brewster and Provincetown, and he said they are working now with Truro.

Officials from both firms emphasized the need to understand the type of administrator the town is seeking. Groux said they will sit down with selectmen to get an impression of the goals and expectations for a new town administrator.

White said they will interview all the departments and request a list of community leaders to interview. The information gathered will be fed back to the committee and selectmen.

Lynch said they will request a list of issues facing the town and will work with department heads and the community to develop a position profile. He said the document helps to understand the desired candidate.

He praised his organization’s outreach when searching for managers. He said they have an extensive network, remain in contact with managers and are active in graduate school programs to be familiar with the next generation of managers. He said their website gets 4,000 to 5,000 hits a month. White also said his firm has wide contact with managers across the state.

The selectmen have made it clear it is not always the best candidate on paper that they are looking for. Selectman Donald Howell said they are looking for someone officials can “interact with. Not someone who built a nuclear reactor in their basement with spare parts. You can do anything with a resume.”

White said it is not necessarily the most successful and qualified candidate, “it’s the fit.” He said on the Cape it’s important to have someone accessible, known and part of the community, someone who can solve problems and work with department heads while provided guidance.

Lynch said they do the background, access stories about prior employment and provide a report. Some boards require an essay, but they prefer to have a candidate show how they worked through a project in a prior community.

“You get the idea of presentation skills and what the thought process is,” Lynch said.

Selectman Ed McManus asked what the consultants thought about site visits. Groux and White said they could arrange them, but Lynch said he finds they do not work that well, especially with a blind visit.

“When the town of Dennis hired me, they wanted a site visit and it was the best thing that happened to me,” White said. “I knew I had the job.”

Both consulting firms emphasized they work closely with the search committee. Search committee member Julie Kavanagh said she wants to be sure “they are comparing applies to apples, looking thoroughly across the board and taking in the whole picture.”

Committee member Dan Wolf said it would be helpful for selectmen to give the committee the tools to look backward, to know what’s been accomplished and to get priorities from selectmen so they can have a dialogue with candidates about issues.

Committee member Fire Chief Norman Clarke Jr. requested clear guidelines from selectmen. He said committee members appointed are strong, dedicated and independent. He also said he looks forward to working with the consultants who are chosen.

Lynch asked about the timeline.

“Expeditiously, but not in a rush,” Ballantine responded.