Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It Was A Very Quiet Year, Till Now...

Back to square one.

That's where we are now in the search for a town administrator for Sturbridge. I'm not exactly too clear on what the hell happened this past week, but 80% of the search committee resigned abruptly when they felt their integrity was in question.

Here's what I do know, the search committee was charged with the search, and interviewing of potential candidates for the position of town administrator. Several requirements had to be met for a person to apply. Seven years as a town administrator, or as an assistant, and they had to have a masters degree. Fairly simple criteria, and as a result, 49 applicants applied and were interviewed. There were three that fell into the final numbers for consideration, however 2 dropped out leaving only one.

This is fairly straight forward. Folks applied based on the criteria, were interviewed and either ruled in or out. Now, here's where it gets a little sketchy. Somehow, through an email, one selectmen found out that a Sturbridge resident that is currently the town administrator in Paxton was interested in the job.

Interested in the job. He didn't apply. He wasn't interviewed. He was only interested, and besides, he didn't meet the search criteria.

Well, that just won't do apparently. So, the Search Committee was accused of tweaking the criteria to allow the local person to be considered by the selectmen.

I don't know what proof they had of this. Did the committee actually begin the process with the Sturbridge resident? Did the person actually apply? Regardless, just the hint that the search committee was "tweakin" the criteria so that a local person could be considered was enough for these four members of the search committee to resign en mass at the selectman's meeting on September 8th.

They all resigned for the same reason: their integrity was being questioned.

There has to be a bit more to the story than what has been released to the media. First of all, the email that got one selectman all in a tither, did it contain information that led the selectman to believe that the un-candidate was actually considering, or being considered by the committee? Was the committee actually "tweakin'" the criteria to meet the qualifications of the hometown boy?

I have no idea, but this I do know, the member's of the search committee are an honorable lot. I know one in particular, and he is a straight shooter, very honest, and would not stray from a charted course if his grand mother was in a life boat 100 yards off port. Based on this, I can understand why the group resigned en masse. Integrity is a valuable commodity, and to have it questioned by others is tough. Only one way to show that nothing was ever awry, resign.

But there lies the real problem. The mission was never completed. I think a different action should have been taken, especially by likes of these committee members. They should have stood tough. They should have asked for evidence that the selectman had that compromised the search process, and if any was actually presented, then respond to it appropriately, and if it is a bunch of hooey, then tell him to put it where the sun don't shine, and offer him a flashlight so he could review it from time to time, and then move on.

Cripes. If they say they didn't compromise the search, and favor the hometown guy, and he wasn't even on the list of finalists then what the hell is the issue?

Now, if at the end of the search, only three viable candidates made it out of forty nine, and two of the finalists booked it, then maybe the committee should have gone before the selectmen and said, "Folks, this is where we stand, we need to loosen our criteria in order to attract more candidates into the mix". Then, if a homegrown, under qualified person was to express an interest, it would not be something that would not have been seen as suspect. Oh, yes there would be the whole ethics thing with his wife serving on the board of selectmen, but that is a whole other issue.

Bu, that didn't happen, or at least it wasn't reported as happening. Instead, four out of five committee members took their toys and went home. When one has worked all their life to be who one is, and if ones integrity is questioned, then I can see not wanting to have it held suspect, but I can also see staying put, and being tough.

Sometimes we are in the mood to make a stand, other times it may not be worth all the energy, we know who we are. That is purely a personal choice, and either way, resigning, or staying put, they can't be blamed.

I guess the real issue here is, what was that "email" that triggered the whole fiasco? What was in it that prompted the selectman's questions?

In the meantime, we are back to square one. After reviewing 49 candidates with one set of criteria and coming up empty, I say, the criteria should be tweaked a tad, and if a local guy, with lots of town experience makes it into the final three, then so be it. Contracts are made with specifics for performance. Local guy or not, if he makes it, he would be held as accountable as anyone else.

Problem solved. Let's fill out the committee again, reset the criteria, and search once more, and let the chips fall where they may.

Times a wastin'.

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