Town Administrator Jean Kitchen announced late last year that after six years on the job she would retire in June at the end of the town’s fiscal year. Since then, the effort to replace her has been in a holding pattern pending the fate of the town manager legislation. No longer.
The question had been whether Southborough would need to hire a new town administrator or a town manager – two very different positions. With a vote to indefinitely postpone the town manager legislation on Monday, selectmen got their answer. “We know now we’re going to have a town administrator,” Chairman Bill Boland said after the vote.
While Southborough will have another town administrator, selectmen say the job description might look quite different than the one in use today. “We’re going to look at what different responsibilities we can give the person without Town Meeting or legislative approval,” Boland said.
Boland’s comment echoed those of several residents at Town Meeting who asked why the board couldn’t delegate more of their day-to-day responsibility to a town administrator in lieu of creating a town manager position.
“I don’t think we’ve explored the alternatives,” former Selectman Sal Giorlandino said in voicing his opposition to the legislation at Town Meeting on Monday. He went on to say the town should look at transferring more responsibility to the town administrator through a renegotiated job description or changes to the town’s bylaws.
Selectman John Rooney said while he was “very disappointed” with the vote to postpone the town manager legislation, he hopes the process will still lead to change. “Hopefully residents are beginning to understand that things are broken.”
Boland said the search for a new town administrator will begin immediately with the crafting of a new job description and the formation of a search committee. Rooney said he hopes members of the committee that drafted the town manager legislation will join in the search.
“The committee worked so hard. Hopefully we can get them on board in hiring a new town administrator,” he said.
With only 2-1/2 months remaining before Kitchen retires, Boland said they may not be able to find a replacement before she leaves, but he said Assistant Town Administrator Vanessa Hale has agreed to handle the responsibilities in the meantime.