Update on chief contracts and recruiting

Yesterday, MetroWest Daily News published an interview with Police Chief Ryan Newell.

The story included financial details worth sharing, prompting me to also update on other department chiefs’ salaries and Town efforts to cost-effectively recruit the replacement for the Public Works chief.

In the MWDN story, they shared financial details from Chief Newell’s contract:

Newell’s contract runs through June 30, 2025. His starting base salary is $158,800. He will receive a 2% raise in each of the second and third years of the contract. He’s also eligible for an additional 2% raise each year based on “favorable” performance reviews, according to his contract.

Newell’s predecessor, retired Police Chief Kenneth Paulhus, earned $167,252 during his final year, his eighth, as chief.

In addition, Newell will be provided a take-home vehicle, as well as a department cellphone and a $1,000 yearly clothing allowance.

He will also receive four weeks of vacation and up to 15 sick days annually.

The story also quoted the chief as grateful that he can plan to finish his career here, in the department he’s worked in for twenty years. You can read the full article here.

I was curious how this compares to the Town’s other big department chief. The contract approved in March for Fire Chief Stephen Achilles allotted $163,511 for this fiscal year, including “all educational incentives”. It authorizes a 2.75% raise next year, and 3.5% the following year.

Chief Achilles’ contract, and other department head contracts posted on the Town’s website, include a required two month notice for resigning from the job. You can find those contracts, along with Collective Bargaining Agreements for Town departments (except for the public schools) here. (Other Town positions should be covered by the Salary Administration Plan here.)

The 2 months notice is what DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan gave when she announced she will be leaving on January 6ht.. Last Wednesday, the Select Board held a special meeting to discuss the process for recruiting her replacement.

Town Administrator Mark Purple expressed hope to have a new Superintendent in place by Galligan’s last day. Board members noted that there is more time pressure than they have had when department heads gave them several months notice. (That’s typically been based on a decision to retire.)

When the Board was eager to quickly replace Chief Paulhus, members were confident that they had a strong enough internal candidate pool to restrict the search. In the case of the DPW, members* made it clear they are focused on attracting outside talent. (Though, they didn’t completely rule out the possibility of a promotion.)

Members discussed a process drafted by Asst. Town Administrator Vanessa Hale that would rely on the Town Administrator’s office to advertise for candidates and vet them with help from an unspecified “interview panel”.

Select Board member Sam Stivers advocated instead hiring a recruiter that has deep ties in municipal governments to run the process. He opined their best bet for a good candidate is convincing someone to apply who isn’t already actively seeking a job.

Chair Kathy Cook was adverse to incurring the expense for taxpayers if unnecessary. She noted that in the private sector, recruiters usually charge 30% of the new hire’s first year salary. Cook followed that in her experience she frequently had luck with applicants that learned about the job through Linked In. She preferred trying Hale’s proposed plan, at least to start.

The Board discussed the delay that partnering with a recruiter would cause. Purple said they had planned to have a November 18th application deadline. He cautioned that it would be difficult to attract candidates’ attention between Thanksgiving and New Years. He added that a new hire will likely be required to give notice to their Town.

Vice Chair Chelsea Malinowski suggested following the proposed process while laying the groundwork to partner with a recruiter if they don’t get strong candidates. Other members agreed.

Purple promised to reach out to the recruiter suggested by Stivers to discuss what their support would provide and cost. The job opening and description were posted last week.

Before posting the job description, the Board agreed to remove a reference to the DPW head’s current salary ($120,063). They instead stated that salary will be based on experience.

*The DPW discussion excluded Lisa Braccio who recused herself. Cook explained that Braccio was waiting on guidance from the state ethics committee about her ability to participate in the hiring process, since her husband is a contractor who does snow plowing work for the DPW.

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Alan Belniak
1 month ago

If the DPW Superintendent position reports to the SB or to the Town Administrator, then that board/person is the one (presumably?) to take on the responsibilities of the role if it’s not filled before Ms. Galligan departs. And given the timing of the season, as Mr. Purple noted, it seems incredibly prudent to accelerate this, rather than ‘wait and see.’ While I can appreciate Ms. Cook’s view of LinkedIn for people hearing/reading about job postings, that might be more applicable to the non-municipal workforce. I can very much appreciate not wanting to shell out an additional “up to 30% of salary” fee as a line-item expense we didn’t account for, but if we don’t have someone in place, to whom Ms. Galligan can knowledge-transfer, show the ropes, acclimate – then we will have missed out on a huge opportunity. This doesn’t need to be an either/or approach, or an if/then. It can be an ‘and.’

Kathy Cook
1 month ago

Mr. Belniak,
Thanks for your comment. And there is nothing in your comment that I disagree with. I just wanted to reiterate that the Select Board understands the important of a smooth transition. And we are currently working on plans to ensure that. The DPW currently is overseeing a significant number of major projects.
And we intend to do as we said during our 10-13 meeting. If the path we have currently chosen to find a qualified replacement for Ms. Galligan (which includes many other means beside Linked-In) doesn’t succeed we will quickly pivot to other means which may very well include the professional recruiter.
Kathy Cook – Select Board member

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