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Northfield administrator leaves for Conway

NORTHFIELD — Instead of his two-year review, Town Administrator Thomas Hutcheson will get an exit interview.

“I was surprised and disappointed to hear Tom was taking a job in Conway,” said John “Jack” Spanbauer, chairman of the Northfield Selectboard. “I thought Tom was doing a good job, and improving year after year.”

Hutcheson has been hired as the new town administrator for Conway. He won’t receive much of a pay raise. Hutcheson received $50,829 for the last fiscal year in Northfield, and was hired in Conway with a salary of about $52,000.

Though he hadn’t been actively looking to leave Northfield, he feels certain things about Conway will make it easier to be an administrator there.

“Conway has general government bylaws, and a different budget structure (than Northfield’s),” said Hutcheson. “Those are things that will, I believe, make it easier to administer the affairs of the town.”

Conway’s government, said Hutcheson, is more centralized than Northfield’s, and its lines of authority more clearly drawn.

“There’s a certain structure within which (Conway’s) government takes place,” said Hutcheson. “(In Northfield), there’s no such structure.”

That could change. Within the past year, the town has formed a Governance Study Committee, and begun the process of creating a new 20-year master plan.

Both of those initiatives could produce suggestions for new bylaws outlining the town government’s structure and process.

The study committee’s work has included research on towns with a town manager, rather than town administrator, who makes administrative decisions based on a policy guidebook.

That’s one of several options, albeit one of the costlier ones, that the committee has looked into. The committee may, when all is said and done, recommend that nothing be changed. The important thing is that the town is examining its options, rather than simply staying the course without question.

“I think the town is on the right track now,” said Hutcheson. “Northfield’s got a bright future. I don’t think it will happen quickly, but things are in motion that will eventually make the town a really great place for everyone.”

Hutcheson’s two years and four months working for Northfield has been, at times, tough.

“Tom has had kind of a difficult tenure,” said Spanbauer. “I can understand his decision.”

Since board member Dan Gray was elected in 2011, he has criticized Hutcheson’s performance and questioned his competence to his face several times during public, televised meetings.

“I think Tom has handled those situations well, and with class,” said Spanbauer. “He has always been very professional.”

Working for a small town with a volunteer government can be difficult.

“It’s the only job where you’re the professional, and the amateurs are your boss,” said Spanbauer. He has also described the position of police chief in the same way.

Hutcheson will go into Conway with two years’ experience under his belt. He came to Northfield without having previous municipal administrative experience.

Hutcheson’s last day in Northfield will be Aug. 9. He will take the weekend off, and start fresh in Conway Aug. 12. Hutcheson said he will make himself available to his replacement, should questions arise.

How to find that replacement, and whether to hire someone for the interim, will be a topic of Tuesday’s Selectboard meeting, said Spanbauer.

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

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