Buckland welcomes new town administrator

  • Heather Butler has been appointed Buckland’s new town administrator. She expects to begin June 10. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/21/2019 5:32:31 PM

BUCKLAND — Heather Butler, a longtime Athol Town Office assistant and former newspaper reporter, has been chosen to serve as Buckland’s new town administrator. 

Butler expects to begin the job June 10. Her appointment follows a six-month search to replace former Town Administrator Andrea Llamas, who stepped down last December. In the meantime the former Springfield mayor Robert Markel has filled the gap, serving as Buckland’s interim administrator.

The town Screening Committee interviewed six candidates for the job, sending three to the Selectboard for review. In addition to Butler, the finalists were Goshen’s Town Administrator Ira Brezinsky and Pembroke’s Administrative Assistant Brandon Gulnick. Both runners-up started their current positions last year.

While Butler has not worked as a town administrator before, she has spent nearly two decades serving in municipal government, the majority in her hometown of Athol. From 2001 to 2017, Butler worked in Athol’s Town Office in various capacities, most recently as administrative manager. She saw five town managers come and go in Athol, and often took on their responsibilities between hires, she said. She has served on several Athol town boards, including the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Board of Assessors.

Butler is currently working as administrative manager in Concord’s Town Office, where her commute is more than an hour each way. Working in Buckland will halve that number, allowing her to spend more time exploring the town, she said.

Dealing with the public is, for Butler, among the most enjoyable parts of working in town government.

“Every day, every single day, I get a chance to go to work and make somebody’s day better,” Butler said. “Sometimes you’re not going to be able to change an answer or resolve a problem for somebody — but sometimes you can. You can at least give that person the time to talk they can explain what bothers them.”

Before she worked in town offices, Butler became familiar with local government from a different vantage point as a newspaper reporter. After graduating from Northeastern University, Butler worked at the Patriot Ledger and the Attleboro Sun Chronicle, both based in Eastern Massachusetts.

“When you are a good reporter, you spend a lot of time in and out of Town Hall and you get to know the different departments of municipal governments,” Butler said. 

When Butler started a family, she returned to Western Massachusetts and decided to change course, choosing a career with more predictable hours. 

“Once I got in there, it’s been something that came very naturally to me,” Butler said. “There wasn’t any facets of town government that didn’t interest me.” 

Butler’s children are grown now, though they’ve stayed close-by in Western Massachusetts. Her 20-year-old son Jacob attends Greenfield Community College, while her 21-year-old daughter Holly goes to University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her husband Michael owns a painting company, Butler’s Painting and Decorating, in Athol. 

“We’re an average couple you know,” Butler said. “He works hard and I work hard.”

In her new role, Butler hopes to improve Buckland’s sustainability, seeking out grants and creating new initiatives. She said the town has already made admirable strides in this area, pointing to its recent ban on single-use plastic. 

“I think Buckland’s approach ... by just adding it all to one bylaw, was incredibly smart and forward-thinking and effective,” Butler said.

Reach Grace Bird at gbird@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 280. 


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