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Search Starts for Reading Town Manager

Screening Committee to be formed by the end of the year.

How does a town go about hiring a new town manager? Especially when the town’s first manager has worked in that capacity for 26 years?

Does the town conduct a search itself? Hire a consultant? A mix of both?

A member of the Edward J. Collins, Jr., Center for Public Management at UMass, Boston, Stephen McGoldrick, met with the Board of Selectmen Wednesday night to discuss how to conduct the search and hiring process. The center offers executive recruitment services, among others, “to improve the cost efficiency and effectiveness of government.”

Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner will retire this coming June 1.

The selectmen will also invite another firm to meet with them by Oct. 2, their next meeting specifically on the town manager search.  If that firm cannot meet with the selectmen by then, Selectmen Chairman Stephen Goldy recommended that the selectmen go with McGoldrick.

While some of the process can be done in-house, “We need some guidance,” said Human Resources Administrator Carol Roberts.

“We’ve never done this,” she told the selectmen. So “Go to the experts.”

Roberts can advertise for candidates, she said, but she cannot “beat the bushes” to recruit candidates, which McGoldrick told the selectmen he does.

“We are not resume collectors,” McGoldrick said.  His agency actively searches for candidates, he said and “anybody from Massachusetts we’ll know.”

McGoldrick strongly recommended that a profile be developed first, listing information about the town, challenges that would face a new town manager and professional and personal qualities that the selectmen are looking for in the ideal candidate.

It’s the main marketing piece for the job and the town, McGoldrick said.

McGoldrick suggested that he could interview some department heads to help develop the profile. 

The selectmen want the profile to be specific to Reading and includes input, Goldy said, from Supterintendent John Doherty. Reading is unique, according to Selectman James Bonazoli, because of the collaboration between the town and school department.

The Collins Center would charge $2,000 to create the profile and between $16,000 and $19,000 to handle the whole recruitment process, Roberts told the selectmen. McGoldrick is getting a proposal to Roberts.

When hiring is done in-house, McGoldrick said he’s seen the pool of applicants shrink because the process takes so long.

Another reason for outside help, he said, is that the assistant town manager may be candidate for the town manager’s job.

McGoldrick recommended that a five-person screening committee be established and given a clear charge.

Hechenbleikner has recused himself from the process of selecting his successor.

The profile should be done by mid-November, Goldy said and a screening committee appointed by the end of the year.

The applicant pool will be “robust” for the Reading position, McGoldrick anticipates, for a number of reasons, including the town’s strong financial position.

He anticipates that the town’s next town manager would hold that position for five to seven years.

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