HARWICH — Selectmen held an emergency executive session on Friday afternoon to discuss strategies for contract negotiations with Interim Town Administrator Joseph Powers that could lead to Powers becoming the town's permanent town administrator. The move came after selectmen learned that Powers is a finalist for the town administrator’s position in Yarmouth.
Powers received a one-year interim town administrator appointment from selectmen effective Sept. 1. “We’ve been sitting on it for a while,” Selectmen Chairman Larry Ballantine said of contract negotiations with Powers for the permanent position. “We certainly want Joe to stay in Harwich.” Given the timeline for the Yarmouth appointment, he said the board had to act fast and thus called the emergency session.
Ballantine said that at the emergency meeting, there was consensus to ask Powers to stay. Board members did not feel comfortable taking a formal vote at the executive session, he added..
“The ball’s in Joe’s court,” Ballantine said “If he comes back and says he wants to stay, we’ll begin contract discussions.”
Powers was one of three finalists, out of a pool of about 23 applicants, for the Yarmouth position announced Tuesday evening. Interviews with the finalists will be held this Saturday. The other finalists are James Kreidler, Jr. of Ashburnham, currently town administrator in Townsend, and Robert Whritenour of East Falmouth, Oak Bluffs' current town administrator.
“We feel each of them is a very qualified candidate, and the board has three very good choices,” said Yarmouth Selectman Michael Stone, who served on the search committee. The board may vote after the interviews Saturday, but a meeting has also been scheduled for next Tuesday if further deliberation is necessary. Chairman Mark Forest said he doesn't expect to vote Saturday, but other board members said they may be ready to vote at that time.
Yarmouth Town Administrator Daniel Knapik is planning to leave the position on Jan. 22 when his contract expires. He will have served in Yarmouth for three years. His present annual salary is $171,200.
The Chronicle reached out to Powers on Monday about the Yarmouth position. “I have no comment at this time,” he responded in an email.
Powers was serving as assistant town administrator when Town Administrator Christopher Clark took an extended leave of absence in November 2019. He was appointed for three 90-day periods as the interim town administrator prior to the one-year appointment in September, which came after selectmen could not reach consensus after interviewing four finalists for town administrator last August, including Powers. The one-year appointment came with a salary of $155,000. The board has performed one evaluation since then, reaching a consensus that Powers’ job performance has “exceeded expectations.”