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Deerfield suspends admin. search

SOUTH DEERFIELD — The Board of Selectmen have suspended the search process for the town administrator and instead are trying to figure out exactly what the corner office needs.

The board requested Interim Town Administrator Kayce Warren to give a report, what they call a “gap analysis” of what the town needs for the administrator office and how it could be better organized. To give her time to develop that report, the board is planning to ask Wendy Foxmyn, the former interim administrator ,to come back for a week as a consultant to take on Warren’s other responsibilities.

The board will inform the three finalists that it is still making a decision and it may interview other possible candidates.

In May, the board interviewed Michael Bissonnette, who served four terms as mayor of Chicopee, Andrew Golas, who is the executive assistant for the town of Palmer, and George R. Zimmerman, the 10-year elected city treasurer in Northampton.

But the selectmen now say the three candidates are not a good fit.

The selectboard is divided on what to do next. But time is running out. Warren’s contract as interim ends June 30.

Selectmen’s Chairman Carolyn Shores Ness said she’d like to interview Interim Town Administrator Kayce Warren for the job. Warren, who applied for the full-time job, has served as town administrator and administrative assistant since February.

“Kayce has been doing the job. She’s really grown into the job,” Ness said.

If the board interviews Warren, it could ask her for ideas on how to organize the office and move it forward, Ness suggested.

Ness said Andrew Golas could be a “good second person” to take Warren’s current assistant job.

Selectman David Wolfram said he leaned toward Golas.

“He’s a younger guy that shows enthusiasm. He’s capable of learning and growing into the job, but actually taking over I have some reservations” Wolfram said.

Selectman Mark Gilmore did not express favor for any candidates, instead questioning what kind of town administrator the town needs.

“Most of the candidates were working with 10,000 to 15,000 population towns. We’re not there yet. We’re looking for someone that can do work and not just delegate,” Gilmore said.

The single resident at the meeting, Max Hartshorne, said the board should interview Warren for the job.

The question is whether Warren’s interview would be fair since she already knows the questions asked of the three other candidates.

Gilmore argued equitable treatment of the candidates “wouldn’t even be possible at this point.”

The debate Wednesday night was deju vu as selectmen repeated similar arguments made earlier this year when the town created the job description and discussed what kind of town administrator would be best for the town.

“I don’t see how we can interview Kayce for something we don’t understand. Part of the problem is we don’t know what we’re looking for,” said Gilmore, the most visibly frustrated member.

Gilmore said he wants to discuss with his colleagues the town hall needs in private, but the state Open Meeting Law is an impedient to that.

“I’d like to know if there’s a way we can have an open dialogue about how we feel and what’s missing. We can’t talk about what works and what doesn’t without offending people,” Gilmore said. “We should be able to ask questions without looking like accusing someone of not doing a good job.”

Gilmore argued that the newly created job description is unclear.

Gilmore repeated arguments he made in January, stating he researched towns similar in size to Deerfield and found they have town coordinators rather than town administrators, an option he’d like the town to look into.

He also questioned why the town budget and why the administrator office have grown, questioning whether the town administrator needs an assistant.

Part of Gilmore’s concerns was his past relationships with the two previous town administrators, David Nixon and Bernie Kubiak. Gilmore said there was a breakdown in communication between the town administrator and selectboard.

Selectman David Wolfram, the newest member, said he doesn’t look in the past.

“I think within the board itself, we have different definitions of a town administrator,” Wolfram said. “I think the job description is fairly accurate. To me, the town administrator is a very important job in the town. We need someone that can work with the board well and other departments. We’re not hiring someone to run the town. We need someone to work with us.”

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