Sumner Selected As Orleans Interim Administrator

By: Ryan Bray

Topics: Orleans news , town administrator , local government

Charles Sumner

ORLEANS – Three candidates were interviewed, but the select board didn’t have to look far to find an interim town administrator.

Charles Sumner was unanimously identified by each board member as their top choice for the interim role on Nov. 2. The board voted to enter into contract negotiations with Sumner, who is expected to begin working for the town early next month.

Sumner spent 29 years as the town administrator in Brewster before retiring in 2015. Since then, he has held interim town administrator roles in both Wellfleet and Provincetown.

The contract for the interim position will run from January until April, with Sumner managing town operations while a permanent replacement is sought for longtime Town Administrator John Kelly, who is retiring Dec. 30 after 26 years in Orleans. Sumner’s tenure will overlap with Kelly’s in December.

The select board also interviewed two other interim candidates, Carter Terenzini and Charles Blanchard. The board also voted to enter into contract negotiations with Terenzini, their second choice, should negotiations with Sumner fall through.

Calling municipal work “an incredibly rewarding experience,” Sumner began his career with jobs in Acton and Arlington before taking his first town administrator position in Littleton in 1981. He took the town administrator job in Brewster in 1986.

“To me, local government has always been an amazing vehicle,” he said.

Building relationships is a cornerstone of effective town management, said Sumner, adding that he envisions his role as that of a “collaborator” and “teammate.” In Brewster, he kept a large table in his office designed to hold large meetings with town hall staffers. That effort to build relationships also extends to members of the community, he said.

Asked by Select Board Chair Andrea Reed of his approach to addressing problems as they arise, Sumner said he finds it best to address issues head on before they escalate.
“A problem only gets worse when you avoid it,” he said. “It gets worse when you delay taking action.”

Sumner said his experiences as an interim administrator have varied. He worked for eight months in Provincetown, where he said his biggest challenge was building confidence in town staff after a period of heavy turnover in the town administrator’s office. Otherwise, he said, things were organized enough where he served largely as a “caretaker” until someone was hired permanently to the post.
“It was well run,” he said of operations on the Cape’s tip. “It has good staff, good policies and procedures.”

That was not the case in Wellfleet, where accounting problems plagued Sumner’s tenure upon his arrival in May 2021. The situation was such that the town came close to having an outside agency take charge of the town’s day-to-day operations, he recalled.

Honestly, it was close to a situation where receivership of some sort wasn’t totally unlikely,” he said.

Sumner and other Wellfleet officials were left to create new accounting processes and procedures. While difficult, he said he felt obligated to help see the town through the crisis.
While he still takes on some work part-time in Wellfleet, Sumner said he’s taking time for himself and his family in retirement. That includes spending the months of January and February out west, he said.
Sumner proposed working one week in-person at town hall in January and February while working the balance of his time during those months remotely. He said when on Cape, he would be willing to work as many days or hours the board sees fit.

Michael Herman of the select board pressed Sumner as to whether he will still be able to fulfill his role even when working remotely.

I can assure you I’ll give it my all,” he said.

Select Board member Mark Mathison said with three candidates who would be working off-Cape, at least for stretches, Sumner’s schedule and availability posed less of an issue.

I think the reality of what we’re presented with is we’re dealing with people who are not here,” he said.
“I know this man will structure his time while he’s away,” Reed said.

Terenzini has held administrator positions in Spencer; Moultonborough, N.H.; Castleton, Vt.; and Mt. Morris, Mich. He has also held several interim administrator posts in New Durham, N.H., as well as in Boxborough, Grafton and Templeton.

Blanchard served as town administrator in Paxton and town manager in Palmer. Most recently, he served as interim town administrator in Williamstown from May 2021 to June 2022.

I feel lucky to have had three quality candidates,” Select Board member Mefford Runyon said.

The select board also interviewed two firms to assist it in identifying full-time candidates for the town administrator position. Representatives from Groux-White Consulting, LLC, of Lexington and Randi Frank Consulting of Louisville, Ky. were both interviewed. Select board members ranked their choices and submitted them to Michaela Miteva, the town’s licensing agent. No vote was taken to select a consultant Nov. 2.

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