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Civil Service

Here’s what we make of Mayor William Martin’s decision to back off his plan to get rid of Civil Service for the Fire and Police departments — it’s a strategic retreat.

Perhaps the mayor realized that he didn’t have enough allies for a full-fledged fight. Or it could be Martin decided there were other more pressing matters on his plate that require his attention.

Whatever the reason — and we think timing has much to do with it — Martin has opted temporarily to cease pushing to get the town to drop Civil Service. “We will need to hire a permanent chief and some permanent ranking officers,” Martin told The Recorder the other day, in calling for police exams for the post of chief in May and later lieutenant and sergeant applicants. That should allow Greenfield to move forward in filling these key positions within the department.

We’re glad the mayor sees the importance of getting past the idea of having people fill these positions on a temporary or provisional basis. That’s no criticism of those department members who have taken on the duties; they have handled the job given to them and represented themselves, the department and the community well.

But “temporary” is just that ... it doesn’t provide the department with the kind of stability needed to move forward.

Truthfully, though, mayor’s decision only puts the issue on the back burner.

Martin says he’s still interested in talks with the unions that will eventually lead to removing all fire and police positions from Civil Service. “This is what they wanted,” he said, “so for now, we are still in Civil Service, we will still follow its regulations. ... I still believe all positions should be open to the best candidates, not just in Civil Service. Civil Service does not mean they have the most experience, best knowledge, most intelligence and are best for our community.”

But what the mayor continues to ignore is the fact that the Civil Service process provides the necessary independence between the individual hired as chief and the mayor’s office. And for all his talk about Greenfield leaving the Civil Service system, the mayor hasn’t addressed what steps will be taken to ensure that autonomy would continue.

We can’t see the unions or residents who support using Civil Service changing their thinking without such locked-in assurance.

In which case, both sides will remain entrenched waiting for the next move.

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