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2 out of 30 make first cut for Northfield job

NORTHFIELD — The Selectboard has narrowed its search for an interim town administrator to two candidates.

Tuesday, the board interviewed Kevin Paicos of Easton and Joseph Kellogg of Sandisfield for the part-time, temporary position. Both are retirees, and neither wants to become the permanent replacement for former administrator Thomas Hutcheson, who left Northfield earlier this month and started his job as Conway’s town administrator Monday. Instead, the candidates seek part-time work, due to income and time constraints placed on their pensions by state law.

Kevin Paicos of Easton

Paicos has nearly 40 years of experience in municipal administration, in towns large and small. They include Ashburnham, Winchendon, Hingham, Easton and Seabrook, N.H.

At present, he is wrapping up his duties as town manager for Foxborough, working for the town on an on-call basis.

“I’m finished with the full-time aspects of the job,” he said Tuesday.

If hired in Northfield, he sees himself fulfilling three primary responsibilities. He would take care of the day-to-day operations of the town, make sure the transition to full-time administrators goes smoothly, and take care of projects put before him by the board.

He said he would also be glad to help the town in its search for a permanent town administrator and help draft the new job description.

Paicos said he researched the town before his interview, combing through newspaper articles, reading meeting minutes and going over citizen comments collected in the ongoing master planning process.

If hired, Paicos said he would be able to start in Northfield as soon as possible.

Though he faces a 21∕2 hour commute from his home, Paicos said he would find an apartment closer to town, and stay in the area during his work week.

An avid outdoorsman, he said he would enjoy the recreational opportunities in and around Northfield.

Paicos has yet to begin drawing his pension, and said the Selectboard’s estimate of a 20-hour week would work for him. He will begin collecting his pension around June, he said, so extra hours wouldn’t be a problem while employed by Northfield. He said he would be able to help the town for as long as it takes to find a permanent town administrator, and would be available to help that person get settled into the job.

Joseph Kellogg of Sandisfield

Kellogg retired two years ago from a position as Sheffield’s town administrator and is limited to 18 hours per week, he told the board Tuesday. Like Paicos, Kellogg said he can start as soon as possible.

Kellogg has more than 30 years of municipal experience; his first town position was community development director of North Adams, in 1981. He said he is familiar with how things work in this part of the state.

“I was born and raised in Great Barrington,” he said. “I’m a western Mass. boy.”

Kellogg has worked for a range of municipalities across the state. He’s been the assistant city manager for Worcester, director of economic development for Cambridge, and an interim administrator or manager in smaller towns like Becket and, most recently, Lanesborough.

Kellogg said the scope of his work, if hired, would depend on the board.

“I’m a hired hand,” he said. “The Selectboard (members) are the elected officials. You hire people like me to carry out the job.”

Though he’s worked in secretarial roles with little power, and city manager positions with a great deal of authority, he said the most important quality of any administrator is that they work well with the town’s elected officials.

“I’m not shy about offering my opinion, but once a decision is made (by the board), I’ll carry it out, unless it’s illegal,” he said.

Both candidates said they’ve dealt with many difficult personnel issues, something Northfield is no stranger to.

“I’ve found that, if you give people a chance to have some input, it makes things go better, even if they don’t like the decision” made in the end, said Kellogg.

Northfield has been looking into possible changes to its form of government and role of the town administrator, with a Town Governance Study Committee.

Both candidates were aware of the initiative, and both cautioned against making any big changes too quickly. One change the committee has considered is to make the town administrator a more authoritative position. Kellogg and Paicos both warned that, while a strong administrator has its advantages, it doesn’t work for every town, especially smaller ones.

“When you take an outsider and have them make difficult decisions ... it’s almost invariably a recipe for disaster,” said Paicos.

Though nearly 30 resumes were received for the interim position, only Paicos and Kellogg were invited for interviews. After interviews with both candidates, the board entered an executive session to discuss strategies for negotiating with whomever they decide to hire. The earliest a decision can be made is at the board’s next open-session meeting Tuesday.

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

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