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Deerfield selectmen vote to offer permanent position to interim town administrator

DEERFIELD — After being without a town administrator for over a year, the Board of Selectmen voted Wednesday night to offer the town’s top managerial role to Kayce Warren, who currently holds the position on an interim basis.

The vote, which passed unanimously, came after nearly two hours of impassioned debate, including comments from all three selectmen and members of other town committees.

A job proposal will be presented to Warren at next week’s meeting. The board also voted to spend the next week updating and clarifying the job description for the town’s executive assistant ahead of advertising it. Warren held that position for 10 years before stepping into her current role.

Much of the debate centered around the job descriptions and what the role of each of the administrative positions should be.

Selectman Mark Gilmore initially opposed the motion, expressing his deep reservations about appointing a new town administrator without first clearly defining what his or her duties would and would not include.

“The problem is that we don’t define what we expect people to do,” he said. “We need a better definition of what our town administrator needs to do.”

When asked by Historical Committee member Jane Trigere to describe the division of labor between the two jobs, Warren responded with examples of some of the tasks a town administrator is generally expected to perform, which include facilitating the town’s budget process, working to obtain complex grants and developing requests for proposals for town projects. The executive assistant, she said, supports the town administrator by preparing documents and files and managing the town’s meeting schedule.

At one point, Deerfield resident Phil Allard energetically addressed the board, demanding to know why the process has taken so long and noting that Warren should be appointed to the job because she has been performing the duties of both positions for the past six months, prompting the motion from Chairwoman Carolyn Shores Ness to offer Warren the job.

“I had a lot of reservations about Kayce’s abilities, but we’ve had conversations and she’s proven a lot of those wrong,” said Selectman David Wolfram, in supporting the motion.

“We’re at the point where we can say she deserves a shot at it; what else do we need to do to make it happen?” said Allard.

The town has been without a permanent town administrator since Bernard Kubiak retired from the position in June of 2013. Wendy Foxmyn took on the role of interim town administrator until February, when Warren stepped into the position and began performing the duties of both the town administrator and executive administrative assistant.

Earlier in the year, the town’s Personnel Board proposed an updated administrator job description amid debate among town officials who differed on the authority that the position should wield. The final job description differed little from the original version.

After the Personnel Board advertised the position, 14 candidates were interviewed. In May, the board brought in three candidates to be interviewed: former Chicopee mayor Michael Bissonnette, Andrew Golas, who serves as the executive assistant in Palmer, and George R. Zimmerman, who served for 10 years as the city treasurer in Northampton.

The selectmen suspended the search in June to find a candidate who would be a better fit for the town. Bissonnette and Golas subsequently withdrew. Warren, who has worked for the town for the past 10 years, was considered a likely pick for the job.

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