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Northfield to renew search for admin. candidates

NORTHFIELD — Town officials will go back to the drawing board after the search for a new town administrator failed to yield an acceptable candidate.

The Selectboard decided Tuesday to look into hiring a consultant to help develop viable candidates for the position. A new search committee will also be convened.

A search committee recommended six candidates to the Selectboard last month, but only one was left standing last week after several candidates took jobs elsewhere and others stopped returning calls from the town.

Former Abington Town Administrator John Sanguinet was brought in for a March 18 interview with the Selectboard, but failed to win the support of the board. The board sought input from others who had worked with Sanguinet, and one member wanted to interview at least one more candidate.

After some research, the board decided Tuesday not to offer the job to Sanguinet.

Selectboard member Jed Proujansky said he didn’t think Sanguinet had the proven leadership skills to usher in a new era of town administration.

A December special town meeting approved a revamped job description, which gives the position more power and autonomy, as well as a pay raise. The Selectboard doesn’t expect the transition to an authoritative town administrator to be an easy one.

“If the (stronger) position had existed for a number of years, and was well defined, (Sanguinet) could step in,” Proujansky said. “I’m not convinced he has the leadership skills” needed to manage the transition.

“We’re moving into a different form of town government, where department heads will lose some of their independence,” said Selectboard Chairman John “Jack” Spanbauer. Under the new town administrator job description, heads of the police, fire, highway and other departments would report to the administrator, rather than the Selectboard, as is current practice.

“I think we need a strong person (as town administrator) to spearhead that change,” Spanbauer continued. “I don’t feel that John (Sanguinet) has the leadership experience to successfully accomplish that.”

Spanbauer referred to Sanguinet’s municipal experience, which consisted of several roles as assistant to town administrators and town managers.

Board member Dan Gray said he did not object to offering Sanguinet the job, but preferred to bring in more candidates before doing so.

Spanbauer said there is some competition for viable candidates, with Deerfield, Athol and Templeton also seeking town administrators.

Sanguinet had been offered a job as town administrator of Clarksburg, but withdrew his application Friday, according to an article in the Berkshire Eagle.

With so much competition for similar jobs, Spanbauer suggested that the town see how much it would cost to hire a consultant to produce a list of qualified candidates.

If a consultant is brought on board, Spanbauer would like any candidates recommended to be vetted by a search committee before being brought to the board for interviews.

Gray suggested that the search committee should include at least one former Selectboard member, because “they know what we’re looking for” in an administrator.

Gray added that he wasn’t convinced that the town needs a full-time administrator, given how well Northfield has gotten along with interim administrators working two or three days per week.

Northfield has been without a full-time administrator since Tom Hutcheson left the position in August. Since then, Northfield has hired two interim administrators, with Robert Markel stepping into the role after Kevin Paicos left the interim position for a full-time job out of state.

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

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