July 27, 2010

Council recaps Town Administrator search process

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – It takes a village to hire a town administrator.
Last week three different interview panels – citizens, managers and employees – took turns questioning the top six applicants, culled from an original pool of more than 120 resumes. Due to scheduling conflicts two councilors, Janet Fairbanks and Kevin Coyle, sat in with the management group.
By Friday, the four top-scoring candidates got to sit down with the five remaining councilors who identified their top two candidates. This week, each councilors will spend quality time with each candidate in individual one-on-one interviews.
Although the names of the candidates have yet to be publicly released, the seven councilors were able to speak generally about the process so far and their impressions of the top candidates, and what they're looking for in a new Town Administrator.
Brad Benson: “This has been one of the best processes ever. It was organized well and the applicant pool was extremely strong,” Benson said.
He will be looking for is someone equipped to mesh with the town's senior management team, and ultimately, a leader who can be “the face of Derry.”
“I'm looking for someone who can go out and engage the community. Someone who can deal more directly with people on the state level and within the business community. It's important we find someone with vision and drive, someone ready to take on Derry and move us forward.” Benson said.
Brian Chirichiello: “I've been around for two other interview processes in my seven years as a councilor, and I do see a difference in this process,” Chirichiello said.
Gary Stenhouse has done a good job for us, but frankly, when we went through this process before, he was my third pick out of three finalists. I didn't get to interview him personally and I was honestly undecided. I actually was the swing vote.. It was a tough decision for me to make. Looking back, maybe I didn't go with my gut.”
He said it's important to pick an administrator who will stick around and provide some consistency. “It's important that we get it absolutely right,” Chirichiello said.
Kevin Coyle: “I'm looking for someone to be a leader, not a caretaker, someone who is going to get things done,.” Coyle said.
He said although he's leaning toward one of the two finalists at this point, he is keeping an open mind.
“I suppose my mind could be changed. I've been wrong before, but for me, there was one candidate who stood head-and-shoulders, above the rest,” Coyle said. “What really impressed me about the candidates is that they really did their homework. They really knew about the various personalities in Derry, and that is important.”
Janet Fairbanks: “Everyone we interviewed was qualified. What I was looking for is someone to drive us forward, whether it's in economic development or community relations. I was looking for someone who was energized, someone who had done their homework about Derry's deep political background – politics here has been a bloodbath for more years than I care to remember,” Fairbanks said.
“Whoever we choose, I will be fine with it. I think we have to get our tax rate down; that's our big thing. If we don't, we can't compete with other towns. We also need to market the positives about Derry, because we do have a higher tax rate. We have to show what makes us special. I want to know how the new administrator will steer business here,” Fairbanks said.
David Milz: “All the candidates are of a caliber that are able to step in and go ahead and run the town,” Milz said. “Of the four candidates I saw, there are simply no losers.”
I think we all want to see someone who would stay on – heck with four or five years; how about the next 10? Having a revolving-door of administrators has not helped us,” Milz said.
I pretty much have an idea of who my top candidate is already – these top two are two sides of the same coin, each one bringing different strengths – the top two are so strong,” said Milz.
Joel Olbricht: “I'm looking forward to the individual interviews. It will be good to get them out of a room of eight people and get to know them without the pressure of a group,” Olbricht said.
My feeling is we have to go with someone who has a lot of experience. Derry is a town with a lot of needs – we're the fourth-largest municipality, so we need someone who's seen a bit of everything. We need someone outgoing enough to meet people and not be afraid of crowds, a positive person who will leave a positive impression,” Olbricht said.
Neil Wetherbee: “The experience factor is important. On one hand you see a guy with a lot of experience and that could be good, except someone else might see them as a retread, and not someone likely to look for new opportunities or be innovative. It's tricky,” Wetherbee said.
What we found out in this whole process is that, despite our reputation, we're not all that unique here in Derry. Our problems aren't unlike the problems other towns face,” Wetherbee said.
He predicts there will be a special meeting sometime in August to make it official.
“I have to admit that I'm hopeful we could come out with a 7-0 vote – I didn't feel that way going into the process, but that's how well this process is going,” Wetherbee said.

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