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Deerfield takes fresh look at town roles

DEERFIELD — It’s been two weeks since Deerfield’s long-time town administrator, Bernie Kubiak, retired and the interim administrator Wendy Foxmyn took over the reins.

Foxmyn’s stay in Deerfield will only be temporary. But she will be pivotal in helping the town continue with business as usual while it searches for its next full-time town administrator.

The town doesn’t want to rush ahead in finding Kubiak’s permanent replacement. Instead, the Board of Selectmen will take it as an opportunity to assess the town government’s needs and functions.

The transition will be a chance for the town to see whether it needs to change the role of town administrator at all.

Foxmyn will be instrumental in helping the town determine the direction it will take.

“Wendy is capable of looking at what the town is and the roles and responsibilities of the people working in Deerfield government,” Selectmen’s chairman Mark Gilmore said. “We need someone that will look at this objectively and see what works best for the town. She can look at what everyone is doing without a bias and see if we need to make a change or keep it the same.”

Foxmyn has insight from 30 years of experience working with local governments in western Massachusetts, serving as town administrator in nearly a dozen communities, including Sunderland, Longmeadow, Leverett and Northfield.

In fact, Foxmyn will develop a plan outlining a search process for the selectmen, which will take into account a timetable and election of the third selectmen, scheduled for September. The plan is expected within the month, Foxmyn said.

Kubiak led the town for close to eight years, becoming instrumental in securing grants and mining local politics. During Kubiak’s tenure, he performed many roles for the department heads, Gilmore said.

“I think what Bernie did was hold all the little pieces together that made things work,” Gilmore said. “But we now moved into a different era. Times have changed.”

One of those changes is the town finances. While federal and state money has dwindled, local demands have increased.

“The new reality is there is not a lot of money but we have to do more,” said Selectman Carolyn Shores Ness. “How do we organize ourselves to be more efficient? We have to watch every penny and get a much better handle on the financial end.”

“We have to pay attention. When Boston sends out a new mandate, we have to pay attention to what that means for us,” Shores Ness added.

One way to tighten the town’s purse is to have a town administrator with expertise in finances, Shores Ness suggested. And to allow the department heads to take control of day-to-day operations.

With new technology and new talent in town, Gilmore sees it as a chance for town government to evolve.

In the past two years, the town hired Shawn Patterson of Cape Cod as highway director and John Paciorek Jr. of Deerfield as police chief.

“We brought on people like Shawn and Chief Paciorek who have taken on a lot of the skills Bernie was filling in,” Gilmore said. “I think the role of town administrator would change because (Patterson and Paciorek) would take on a bigger burden of what the town administrator’s job was.”

Under Paciorek’s leadership, Gilmore said, police department computers were upgraded and administrative staffing has been increased. In the Highway Department, Patterson has taken the lead on projects, including the new town highway garage.

Another factor that will impact the local government’s direction is the town clerk’s office. Long-time Town Clerk Mary Stokarski is also retiring this year.

The appointed position handles marriage, birth and death certificates, dog licenses and oversees elections. As the town evaluates the town administrator role, it will also review the clerk’s.

Whatever turn the town government takes, the selectmen said they will keep an open mind.

“We need to ... look at what we can do to strengthen town operations,” said Shores Ness.

What remains important in the town government is it remains cost effective and sustainable, Gilmore said.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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