Fire Chief John Mauro Jr. has announced he will retire in September after 38 years on the force, and Selectmen last week started talking about the process for hiring his replacement. It’s a process that likely will be quite different from that used to hire Southborough’s police chief in 2009.
“I’m not sure the (police chief) search committee proved to be best vehicle for the process,” Selectman John Rooney said. “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Rooney was a member of the citizen-led search committee charged with recommending finalists for the police chief position, but resigned before the finalists were selected because he said the process was flawed.
Rooney’s primary complaint at the time was that the consultant hired to assist the process was not allowed to fully participate. He said for the fire chief search, the consultant should be involved from the beginning.
Boland agreed saying that while everyone on the police chief search committee worked hard, having the consultant involved throughout would have helped the process. “I don’t know if anything would have turned out differently … but the consultant should have been involved from the get-go,” he said.
For the fire chief search, Rooney said he would not support the creation of an ad-hoc citizen committee like the one used during the police chief search. Instead, he recommended bringing in retired fire chiefs and paying them a small stipend to assist with the process.
“They know exactly what we should be looking for in a fire chief,” Rooney said. “I’m not sure citizens, myself included, would be able to add much.”
Selectman Dan Kolenda said he also would not support a citizen-based search committee, but Boland disagreed saying residents should be involved.
“I think it’s important to allow some citizen participation, but it needs to be a structured and focused charge from this board on what we’re looking for,” Boland said.
All three selectmen agreed the assessment center used to evaluate finalists in the police chief search was valuable, and said they plan to use one again.
Assistant Town Administrator Vanessa Hale said the cost of bringing in a consultant to advise the town on the hiring process, as well as to conduct an assessment center, is estimated at $7-$10K. That money was budgeted and approved by voters at Town Meeting in April.
Other than instructing Hale to issue an RFP for a consultant and assessment center, Selectmen did not make any further decisions about the hiring process at their meeting last week.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” Rooney said. “Let’s get a consultant on board immediately and they can advise us on the next step.”
Boland said in the end they want “the best process to find the best chief. There was a lot of tension in town when we hired the police chief. I hope this time it will be more peaceful.”