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Deerfield names candidates for town administrator

SOUTH DEERFIELD — A former four-term mayor of Chicopee, an executive assistant for the town of Palmer and city treasurer of Northampton are vying to be the next Deerfield town administrator.

The Town Administrator Search Committee recommended the three candidates for the Board of Selectmen’s consideration.

The three candidates will advance to a final interview with the selectmen.

“We have outstanding candidates that have come forward,” said Selectboard Chairman Mark Gilmore. “We couldn’t have projected the quality of people.”

The next step, the search committee recommended, is for the candidates to meet with the town department heads and Deerfield Police Union representatives, the only union in town, which Gilmore said he hopes to arrange next week. The staff’s written comments would be forwarded to the selectmen for final consideration.

The town has been without a permanent town administrator since Bernard Kubiak retired from the position in June. Wendy Foxmyn served as interim administrator until February after which Kayce Warren split her time between that position and her job as executive assistant.

The position pays $60,000 to $75,000 annually.

One candidate is Michael Bissonnette, who served four terms as mayor of Chicopee, a city with more than 56,000 residents. Bissonnette has experience establishing long-term goals in capital budgeting, economic development, collective bargaining and personnel management, according to the search committee’s report. He also served as chair of the Chicopee School Committee, overseeing a $100 million-plus budget for school building, construction and implementation of new curriculum standards. He also managed the construction of about $250 million in new buildings and construction, including the Chicopee Senior Center, Chicopee Comprehensive High School and Chicopee Middle School renovation.

Bissonnette received a bachelor of arts degree from Western New England College, a master’s in public administration from the University of Massachusetts, and a law degree from the Western New England University School of Law.

If selected, Bissonnette said he plans to use his skills in municipal government to position Deerfield to grow economically and commercially, increasing the tax base by attracting new families and first-time home buyers, the report states.

A second finalist is Andrew Golas, who is the executive assistant for the town of Palmer, which has a population of about 12,000.

In that role, Golas is responsible for central purchasing and contract management. He also managed four individual fire and water districts, as well as the town’s information technology.

Golas was involved with crafting a host community agreement between Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Casino and town officials. The failed proposed casino referendum exposed him to opportunities for municipal improvements to unemployment, empty storefronts and a sluggish economy, the report states.

He received a bachelor of science in regional planning and a master of public administration degree from Westfield State University.

The last candidate is George R. Zimmerman, the 10-year elected city treasurer in Northampton. He has experience with the development and implementation of investment, banking and cash-management strategies within a $100 million budget structuring and executing short and long term borrowing, the search committee’s report states.

Zimmerman also has experience in the private sector, working for nine years in real estate investment on a national scale, including buying, selling, lending and managing transactions.

He received a master of business administration degree from the University of Massachusetts and a law degree from Western New England College School of Law.

The search committee looked for candidates with long-term potential to serve the town to avoid another search anytime soon.

Fourteen people applied. The search committee then whittled the list down to four using a scoring system based on experience and resumes. Members then independently scored each candidate and submitted and discussed their scores with the full group at three February meetings.

The committee held separate hour-long interviews using questions developed at two previous meetings. The candidates were scored and ranked and their references checked.

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