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Deerfield selectmen mulling town administrator options

SOUTH DEERFIELD —Underwhelmed by the three finalists for the town administrator position, the Board of Selectmen is determining its next steps and is now eying the interim town administrator for the full time job.

At its meeting on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall, Selectboard Chairman Carolyn Shores Ness said she will ask to suspend the search process.

“None of the candidates were actually a town administrator. I don’t feel like it was a good fit,” Ness said. “We need someone who will generate for the town and can write grants. I’m not comfortable with any of the candidates.”

Michael Bissonnette, the former four-term mayor of Chicopee, Andrew Golas, the executive assistant for the town of Palmer, and George R. Zimmerman, a former elected city treasurer in Northampton, were recommended by the Search Committee to the Board of Selectmen. The selectmen interviewed the three candidates earlier this month in a joint public interview.

The three candidates don’t seem to be a good fit for the town, Selectman Mark Gilmore said.

The board is deciding whether to review the three finalists again, consider Interim Town Administrator Kayce Warren for the position or restart the search over again, which would be their last resort.

The two top candidates represented two ends of the spectrum.

“We have a dilemma,” Gilmore said. “We have one candidate that has more experience than any of us (in total) and would command a high salary and one that is young and the experience he brings to the table is below what we need.”

Bissonnette brings an extensive background in public administration and politics to the table. He served eight years as mayor of Chicopee and more than 20 years as a practicing attorney. Though Bissonnette has an impressive resume, the Deerfield selectmen consider him to be overqualified.

“From my point of view, we’re not at his level,” Gilmore said. “It would be disheartening to have to keep up with it. It’s not a good mix.”

Meanwhile, Golas has served in Palmer since July 2010 after obtaining his bachelor’s degree in regional planning from Westfield State University. As the town faces tight fiscal woes, especially in the next two years, Golas’ inexperience was his major pitfall.

George Zimmerman, on the other hand, has talents that were too specialized for Deerfield, Gilmore said. In addition to city treasurer, Zimmerman worked for nine years for MassMutual in real estate investment on a national scale.

“He didn’t have the talents we were looking for. He’s very talented and has very good ideas, but we agree that his talents were too specialized,” Gilmore said.

The board is considering the interim town administrator, Kayce Warren. Warren, who has served as assistant town administrator for 15 years, has been doing two jobs since February, performing her normal assistant duties as well as town administrator work.

“We may ask Kayce the same questions and interview her. It’s important to have someone to move us forward,” Ness said.

“Kayce Warren has been doing an admirable job in the position,” Gilmore said. “She has a lot of positives. From my point of view, she is in the consideration of where we end up.”

Warren applied for the full-time town administrator position, but was not recommended as a finalist by the Search Committee.

Gilmore said the board is thinking in the long term.

“The decision on whom we hire affects what the Board of Selectmen want for the next 10 years. We’re looking for improvement,” Gilmore said.

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