February 9, 2011

After 100 Days, Grades are in for new Administrator

With 100 days under his belt, new Town Administrator John Anderson gets passing grades from the Town Councilors.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- It’s been 100 days since Town Administrator John Anderson came to town, fresh from a similar post in Boothbay, Maine, a town of about 3,000 people.
In his first few months in Derry, Anderson has negotiated an agreement with the owners of the Pinkerton Tavern, pursued a failed court appeal to reconstitute the charter commission and weathered one of New Hampshire’s snowiest Januaries.
Councilors were unanimous in tapping Anderson for the job, and now they are looking back at his first 100 days at the helm.
“We knew going into hiring John that there was going to be an acclamation process in starting to manage the fourth largest community in New Hampshire,” said council Vice Chairman Neil Wetherbee. “It’s quite a challenge, but I think if he keeps on the track that he’s going, he’ll do fine here.”
Wetherbee said Anderson gets a B-plus for his first 100 days, saying he has confidence in his ability to manage on his own.
“The fact that I don’t have to be on the phone to him all the time is a good thing,” Wetherbee said. “But by the same token, he’s been very communicative with us as to what’s going on and keeping us up to speed.”
Councilor Brian Chirichiello gave Anderson a solid B.
 “Do I think everything is 100 percent perfect? No,” Chirichiello said. “But I never expected it to be. There’s always a learning curve.” 

Chirichiello said he didn’t have any big complaints and praised Anderson’s efforts to integrate himself into the community by attending meetings and events outside of municipal government. 
“I know John was very ambitious to get going and meet people in the community, and I think he’s done a good job,” Chirichiello said. “He’s doing exactly what he planned to do in the first few months and that’s great.” 
Councilor David Milz gave Anderson an A for his ability to handle the many tasks he was given by the council. 
“We put a lot on his plate right from the start,” Milz said. “He took all that on and in addition said, you can do all that to me and here’s my own agenda, too. He has hit the ground running and never hit a low gear.” 
But Milz said he hoped Anderson would step up his professional appearance to attract bigger businesses to town. 
“I’d like to see less of a laidback attitude,” he said. “I’d like to see some suit-and-tie dressing. He should look and act like a CEO running a business.” 
Milz commended Anderson’s ability to negotiate an agreement with the owners of the Pinkerton Tavern to vacate their building for a relocation payment of $305,000 from the town. The tavern property was seized through eminent domain as part of an expansion of Route 28. 
“I was not enamored with the final figure, but he inherited the issue,” Milz said. “He didn’t cause this, and I thought he handled that very well.” 
But that same negotiation process is part of what has limited Councilor Kevin Coyle’s approval of the new town administrator. 
“(Anderson) is here. He shows up and he goes to meetings and he’s trying to become actively involved in the community, which I appreciate,” Coyle said. “But he has made some decisions that I thought were not so good, like to give $305,000 to a business to leave town. That was a really bad idea.” 
Coyle gave Anderson a C-plus. 
Coyle also said he takes issue with a dinner Anderson attended with four councilors, including Chairman Brad Benson, after the council meeting on Jan. 18. 
“He told us when he first got here that he was going to stay apolitical, and that didn’t show him as being apolitical,” Coyle said. “I thought that was a bad idea. I’m hoping there aren’t any more missteps like that.” 
Councilor Janet Fairbanks declined to comment for this story. Benson and Councilor Joel Olbricht could not be reached for comment. 
After a bit of self reflection, Anderson said he would give himself a B-plus so far. 
“It’s been everything I expected, but there’s always room to improve,” he said. 
Anderson said his biggest challenge ahead will be putting together the municipal budget, which is already facing a million-dollar shortfall. 
“Luckily I’ve got some excellent people that have been working in this town for years,” he said. “This is not the first time at the rodeo for them.” 

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