Orleans Officials Support Stipend For COA Director

By: Ryan Bray

Topics: Recreation

Orleans Senior Center Director Judi Wilson has been tasked with helping the town’s recreation department transition over to a new director, as well as help coordinate a new community life working group. 

Judi Wilson To Help Steer Recreation Department Through Transition

ORLEANS – As efforts continue to shore up recreation operations, one town staffer has been tapped to help guide the department through a period of transition.

The proposed budget for fiscal 2024 includes a $10,000 stipend for the town’s senior center director, Judi Wilson, who will be tasked with helping mentor and guide the town’s next recreation director upon their hiring.

The move was one of several that the select board authorized on the recommendation of Interim Town Administrator Charles Sumner, in collaboration with Wilson, Interim Recreation Director Brendan Guttmann and the recreation advisory committee, who have been working on a short-term recreation plan while efforts to situate the department in the long term are ongoing.

The state of recreation in Orleans has faltered in recent years, leading the town to commission an organizational study to identify the department’s needs moving forward. The study, conducted by the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts Boston, identified a number of issues, among them lack of staffing, ineffective leadership, a questionable organizational structure and poor communication and collaboration.

The town’s growing recreation woes have also spurred a search for a new recreation director. Alan Harrison was put on paid administrative leave from the position in December before resigning in January.

The select board voted 5-0 March 15 in support of including the stipend for Wilson as part of the new budget. Wilson’s work overseeing the senior center and council on aging has in the past been cited by the board as a model for how it envisions the recreation department could operate in the future.

Sumner said Wilson’s work with recreation would help the town on its path toward building a new department of community life, a recommendation that came out of the Collins Center study. It would also help with the town’s transition over to a new town administrator, whom he said will have “plenty to do” when they are hired.

In my mind, we have someone with Judi who knows this community, who knows the staff, who knows programming and could be a mentor to the new rec director,” Sumner said.

Wilson read to the board an outline of her proposed responsibilities, which include enhancing community relations and improving collaboration between town staff, committees and other stakeholders. She would also help coordinate a community life working group and help prepare a “work plan” for the new recreation director based on input from the recreation advisory committee, town staff and recommendations from the Collins Center study.

The arrangement would be subject to review every six months, Sumner said, a timetable that Wilson said makes good sense.

Six months takes us to the start of the FY25 preparation period,” she said.

Sumner said in an email that interviews were to be held Monday and Tuesday for a new recreation director. Mark Mathison of the select board said even with Wilson’s guidance, the new director should come into the job with a strong background in recreation, and that mentorship should focus more on bringing that person up to speed with the town’s specific recreation needs.

The select board also unanimously voted in support of adding $12,480 to the budget to help create a new community services principal clerk position. The funding would take a proposed 30-hour-a-week position in the council on aging and turn into a full-time 40-hour job that would service both the council and the recreation department.

It would be better for recruitment purposes, we’d have a full-time person getting benefits, and for continuity and training as well,” Sumner said.

In addition to managing payroll, paying bills and other administrative duties, the clerk would also be charged with providing “publicity support” for the recreation department, possibly through a blog or newsletter on the town website.

An additional $1,034 was also supported by the select board to increase the salary for Brendan Guttmann, the town’s acting recreation director. Guttmann, who formerly managed the department for nearly 30 years, is currently working 19 hours a week.

The select board last week also officially voted 5-0 to move recreation out of the department of public works. The board had previously voiced support for the move, which came on the recommendation of the Collins Center.

But with the move comes the need to rehouse the department. Sumner said the town has looked at the Old Firehouse on Main Street, where the department used to be based. But he said that option is still “up in the air” with logistics still to be worked out. The annex buildings across the street from town hall might also have the space to accommodate recreation, Sumner said. The building is currently the subject of a feasibility study to determine its best future use by the town.