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Northfield seeks interim administrator

Looks to revamp permanent position

NORTHFIELD — Rather than rush to replace its outgoing town administrator, Northfield will take some time to retool the position.

The town will hire an interim administrator to handle town affairs after current administrator Thomas Hutcheson leaves Aug. 9 to become town administrator of Conway. With a September deadline for a new job description, and a hiring process that could take two months or more, the town may not have a permanent administrator until November.

The Selectboard decided to go this route at the request of a committee that’s been charged to study governments in similar towns, and see if Northfield could be better served by changing its own government.

The Town Governance Study Committee will have until the first week of September to draft a new job description for the town administrator position, for the Selectboard’s approval.

“Our research clearly indicates that a very active and empowered Town Administrator allows for better communications in managing daily town affairs and relieves a Selectboard of potential issues with compliance with Massachusetts open meeting laws,” said committee Chairman Barry Bordner, reading from a letter to the Selectboard.

Committee members have visited several towns and met with their selectmen and administrators, and found that things work best with a strong town administrator.

The strength of an administrator has less to do with the employee than the job description. Bordner said his committee’s recommended description will be significantly different from the one in place. It will be based on the job descriptions of the “strong administrators” committee members have studied.

The strongest administrators run the day-to-day affairs of the town, making decisions based on a set of policies and guidelines, the committee reported previously. This frees up the town’s executive board to set policy and make well-informed decisions on their town’s bigger matters.

A clear chain of command can also help a town and its administrator function.

Hutcheson said he took the job in Conway because its government is more structured, and believes it will be easier to administer Conway’s affairs than Northfield’s.

“Here, there’s no structure,” he said of Northfield. “As an administrator, it’s necessary to know where the lines of authority are.”

Hutcheson said he sees hope for Northfield, by way of the ongoing 20-year master plan, the Town Governance Study Committee, the Town Bylaws Committee, which has been working to compile bylaws into a comprehensive document, and other recent initiatives.

There are several people in the state willing to take interim administrator positions, said Bordner, and he will tell those he knows of about the opening. The Selectboard will also advertise the position, and asked Hutcheson to help find others interested in the job as well.

David Rainville can be reached at:
drainville@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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