Search Committee To Narrow Field Of Administrator Candidates

By: Ryan Bray

Topics: Orleans news , town administrator

Members of the town manager search committee in Orleans take public comment Monday as part of the process of identifying the town’s next administrator/manager. RYAN BRAY PHOTO

ORLEANS — Residents were given the floor Monday to weigh in on what they want to see in Orleans' next town administrator/manager, but feedback during a public hearing held by the town manager search committee was minimal.

Just three people spoke in person at Monday's hearing, which was designed for the search committee to listen and take in comments and suggestions from members of the public. A few others joined the hearing remotely, but none opted to speak.

Despite the low turnout, committee members Monday said they're comfortable with how things are proceeding toward hiring the town's first administrator/manager in 26 years. (The title of the position is due to change from town administrator to town manager with the new hire.) That person will succeed long-time town administrator John Kelly, who retired from the post at the end of December.

Apart from Monday's hearing, residents and members of the public were also given the opportunity to take part in an online survey asking respondents what qualities they sought in a new town administrator/manager. Committee member Ginny Farber said 196 people responded to the survey, and added that others have approached committee members personally to weigh in with their thoughts.

"At this point, we feel we've collected a substantial amount of public input," said Michael Gradone, who chairs the search committee.

The committee has been aided in its search by a consultant, Richard White, whom Gradone said has so far fielded more than 30 applications for the position. White also conducted about 50 in-person interviews with town department heads and staff as part of his work to identify candidates for the committee to consider, Gradone said.

"He's distilled for us their collective thoughts on what sort of characteristics will serve the town well," Gradone said.

Broadly speaking, Sims McGrath of the search committee said the town is looking for someone along the lines of a chief operating officer to serve as its next administrator/manager.

"But we are not hiring a mayor," he noted. "They are focused on managing the operations of the town, and within those responsibilities is good communication with the citizens."

Gail Briere, who chairs the Orleans Elementary School Committee, said the town's next administrator/manager should be a person of "integrity of word and deed." She said the new hire should be someone with "highly evolved" interpersonal skills who can effectively manage and evaluate town staff, is transparent in sharing information with the public and has a proven track record of effective collaboration and fiscal management.

The next administrator/manager should also have a strong background in strategic planning and be able to help the town coordinate its various ongoing planning efforts, Lynn Bruneau of the finance committee said. That includes efforts to plan for a new fire station and the potential hiring of eight new firefighters, as well as plans for a new community center, elementary school and a reorganized recreation department, among other initiatives.

The town's next administrator/manager will also likely be charged with addressing significant turnover at town hall in the coming years, Bruneau added.

"In the next three to five years, five to eight of our key department managers are leaving," she said. "They're retiring, so we're going to have a big issue ahead of us."

Farber said there was a lot of consistency among survey respondents in what characteristics they prioritized in a new administrator/manager. She said respondents put a high value on collaboration, strategic planning, financial planning, problem solving and staff management. Good communication and interaction with town boards and other stakeholders was also valued, while "visibility" was not, she said.

More specifically, four respondents expressly stated their desire to see the town hire a woman. Three others said they wanted a new administrator/manager who was "conservation minded."

Bruneau asked whether candidates' experience and familiarity with small communities such as those on the Cape might influence the group's choice. Gradone said the committee is keeping an open mind and not limiting its candidate pool geographically.

"We have applications, but I'm looking at things in shades of gray, not black and white," he said.

Orleans resident John Smith stressed that coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to have an administrator/manager with the ability to manage the town during periods of crisis. He complimented the manner in which town staff safely navigated residents through the pandemic.

"We had over 96 percent participation on the vaccines in town," he said. "The health department did a magnificent job of making sure that everything took place and protected our community."

The search committee was expected to meet Wednesday (March 15) to narrow the field of candidates down to about eight that it will interview. Candidate interviews hopefully will be done by the committee by the end of March, Gradone said.

"We may interview one or two more than that," he said. "I don't think we'll interview fewer."

Gradone said the committee hopes to have a slate of finalists in place for the select board to consider by April 1.

Email Ryan Bray at ryan@capecodchronicle.com