Powers Gets Satisfactory Rating From Selectmen

By: William F. Galvin

Town Administrator Joseph Powers received satisfactory marks in his annual evaluation. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

HARWICH – As Town Administrator Joseph Powers heads toward completion of his first year in the position, selectmen, in their annual evaluation of the executive, expressed satisfaction with his performance.

Board members rated Powers’ performance since Feb. 21, when he was promoted from interim town administrator, as “satisfactory” to “highly satisfactory,” said Selectmen Chairman Michael MacAskill. Having a passing grade will get the town administrator his contractual salary increase.

Three members of the board rated Powers as highly satisfactory when performing “last year’s specific goals assigned by the board of selectmen.” He was also given highly satisfactory scores by two members for budget development and procurement management. 

The evaluation form gave board members three options for rating the town administrator: unsatisfactory, satisfactory and highly satisfactory. A fourth option of “not applicable” was provided in a couple of categories. The responses by selectmen primarily rated Powers’ performance as satisfactory to the seven categories covered in the evaluation. 

The categories included subject matter expert; budget development; personnel management; procurement management; providing leadership; and last year’s specific goals assigned by the board of selectmen.

Powers received no unsatisfactory ratings. However, there was a clear message that communication with residents and members of the board of selectmen is in need of improvement.

Communication with the board has been excellent. Communication to some employees needs to be improved and to residents. Most complaints I get are non-response, or not a timely response,” MacAskill said during discussion on the evaluation.

Has shown evidence of being a strong leader. I have personally found it difficult to have meaningful discussions with him at times. Not always equal access. Not sure if that isn’t also an inadequacy of the board itself reflected in his actions, sort of a tyranny of the majority,” Selectman Donald Howell wrote of Powers.

Joe has excelled at representing the town at public meetings including the annual town meeting. Communication with individual residents could be improved,” Selectman Larry Ballantine wrote under future goals assigned by the board.

Selectman Julie Kavanagh added during the evaluation discussions on communications that there has been a lot of comment about timely feedback.

Mark Kelleher, who was a candidate for selectman in September, spoke to the need for better communication from town staff. He said emails he has sent to staff do not get acknowledged. He suggested selectmen make a rule requiring acknowledgement within a certain timeframe.

That was also an area of concern,” Selectman Mary Anderson said. “There is certainly some belief in town that communication among the staff is not that good.”

Across the board members agreed progress has been made on procurement management.  

Joe has done an outstanding job in managing the budget. For the first time in many years we had a level funded budget for FY2022, and Joe is working to deliver the same for FY2023,” Anderson wrote in issuing a highly satisfactory performance rating.

Careful, methodical and timely with milestones. Has aligned his efforts with available town monies and selectmen objectives,” Howell wrote in a highly satisfactory rating for budget development.

Navigating through the pandemic was not easy on the TA, or any of the staff, yet great progress has been made on the wastewater goal and the budget. Town meeting was extremely successful while the budget and the board’s initiatives were supported with confidence by the majority,” MacAskill wrote of Powers’ response to special goals assigned by the board.

In her evaluation, Kavanagh wrote that since she is a newly elected member of the board with just a few months' experience with the town administrator, she had limited feedback to offer. She rated Powers as satisfactory in all categories. Ballantine was the only member of the board to declare Powers' overall performance highly satisfactory.