This morning, the Select Board interviewed the two finalists to fill the vacant position of Southborough DPW Superintendent. Afterwards, the Board debated whether to hire someone who didn’t check all of their boxes, or reopen the search.
Given the tight job market, the Board ultimately agreed to hire their preferred candidate and plan to offer him the support necessary to get up to speed in the areas where he has less experience than desired.
In the discussion about the decision, all four of the participating Board members* preferred Phil McNulty, Stoughton’s Water & Sewer Superintendent. McNulty has been in the field longer than the other finalist, Meghan Condon, Assistant Superintendent of Wellesley’s Water and Sewer Division.
McNulty’s resume also included a wider breadth of experience over his career. In discussion with fellow members, Chair Kathy Cook referred to some of that experience in the 80s and 90s as outdated.
Cook expressed concern that between all of the large projects and responsibilities on the horizon and all the criticism the Town had received over managing Public Works they needed someone with the right expertise, including overseeing Highway departments and the Transfer Station.
Her ideal candidate would have been an Assistant DPW Superintendent from a similar community. But all feared that there weren’t any out there looking for the job. Town Administrator Mark Purple told the Board that he saw a lot of Towns are looking for people and not many are applying. He indicated that a recruiter had confirmed that view.
Member Andrew Dennington opined that many of McNulty’s skills were transferrable. Overseeing a big waterworks project would require many of the same management skills as being in charge of a construction project like the one planned for Cordaville Road. Member Chelsea Malinowski shared Cook’s concerns but also agreed with Dennington. And she highlighted that McNulty will bring in some new expertise the Department hasn’t had.
The one area that the Board preferred Condon’s experience with was dealing directly with frustrated residents in a “customer service” capacity. But members agreed that McNulty could also be good with people.
If McNulty takes the job, Cook said she wanted to have a member liaise directly with the new hire to help get him up to speed. (Earlier, she lamented that the Public Works Planning Board didn’t appear to be a strong, active group ready to take on that role.)
In addition to having McNulty take advantage of DPW staff members’ skills and experience, they hope he’ll be able to leverage advice from two former Superintendents when/if needed — former DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan (who is under contract to act as a consultant for $150 per hour) and, if he agrees, the current interim Superintendent Abdul Alkhatib (Billerica’s retired DPW head who lives in Northborough and has been working for the Southborough at $75/hr).
In addition, Purple assured that the Town’s other Department heads are a supportive group who work to ensure that nobody fails.
The next planned step was for two Board members to work together on contract negotiations.
*Member Lisa Braccio was absent, having recused herself from all decisions related to hiring the new DPW Superintendent. (Her husband does some plowing contract work for the department.)