By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – The search for a new town administrator is officially on, after the council voted Tuesday night to hire a New Hampshire consulting firm to get the job done.
Municipal Resources Inc. of Meredith was chosen to handle the executive search to replace Gary Stenhouse, who has resigned effective July 1.The vote was 5-1-1, with Councilor Janet Fairbanks abstaining and Councilor Kevin Coyle voting against the recommendation made by Human Resources Director Larry Budreau.
Budreau told the council that seven proposals had been received by the Feb. 26 deadline, including two Massachusetts firms, a Connecticut-based company and consulting firms from Texas, and Washington, D.C.
The only other New Hampshire consultant in the mix was Concord-based Local Government Center, which underbid all the others by nearly $5,000. Budreau said he ruled them out first because he said their bid did not include what he felt was a vital aspect of the search: working with the town to formulate a well-defined job description and recruitment plan.
Coyle argued that the town should be able to make use of its own resources to pull together a candidate profile and pocket the $5,000 savings. He requested that the council at least interview some of the more local firms before ruling them out.
“We're all smart people up here, we can put a profile together of a canddate we'd like and the attibutes we'd like to have,” Coyle said.
Budreau reminded the council that efforts made in the hiring of the last two town administrators required a lot of time and work gathering and synthesizing information.
“People paint a picture of the perfect candidate that they want, then I or someone goes looking for that someone to fit the description. In my assessment of this town's and this council's needs now, painting that picture is something we could use help with, and that's not part of the services being offered by the Local Government Center.”
Coyle questioned whether Budreau had asked if the Local Government Center would be willing to conduct such a service. Budreau said he had not.
From there, other councilors weighed in, pointing to the July 1 target date for a new hire, which already has lapsed to under 90 days.
Councilor Joel Olbricht said he felt it might be hard for the council members to be impartial, adding that the council could still steer a consulting firm in any particular direction, once hired.
“We need to get into this process and get it done,” Olbricht said.
Councilor Neil Wetherbee agreed with Olbricht.
“This is something we've got a deadline on. I believe to a certain degree you get what you pay for,” Wetherbee said. He pointed out that MRI's proposal included a generous clause that, should a new hire quit or be fired within 18 months, the firm would conduct a new search at cost.
“And given our track record, I think that's significant,” Wetherbee said, alluding to the town's high turnover rate of administrators in the past 20 years.
Councilor Brian Chirichiello supported moving the process forward with a vote.
“We're under the gun here. Gary's leaving in July, we've got budgets coming up, we're going to be straight out for the next two months,” Chirichiello said.
The council's discussion required two 10-minute extensions before wrapping up just before 10:30 p.m. with the vote.
As a result of the majority decision, MRI will begin the search for a new town administrator at a cost of $12,500 to the town.