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Town Administrator Work Group To Begin Readying Recommendation



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For the past five months, a Town Administrator Workgroup has been laying the foundation of its work by extensive research, including interviews with more than a dozen town officials from around the state.

At its May 30 meeting, the group alluded that it would be doing two more meetings where appointees would continue to interview town officials; then, starting in July, the four members would begin formulating a draft of recommendation to the town.

The group began review of an outline drawn up by member Ned Simpson, with member Pat Llodra noting that a list of “changes” in the outline were just “descriptions of Newtown’s current structure.” Llodra suggested that the outline start by describing current conditions, then move on to why the group is doing the work, referencing a charge the group received from First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, and then move into the three models the group is considering.

The models are no change — to leave the town in the current model of government; a town manager form of government that would require a change to the Town Charter; and hiring a town administrator that would work under the current first selectman.

Llodra recommended that Simpson write the section of the recommendation on the group’s research as he has a “very linear sense of order” and can “lay it all out in a detailed, responsive way.”

Simpson recommended that Chairman Maureen Crick Owen write a section of “common themes” in the group’s research — little details that match between how different towns have approached similar changes to what Newtown is considering.

The group also looked over a list of areas of concern for why a change may need to take place.

The first was that longevity in the role of first selectman may not be relied upon. While Newtown has had a string of first selectmen that have stayed in the role over multiple terms, the position is elected every two years and future candidates may not stay in the role as long as previous first selectmen.

Another concern was that compensation for the position is less than similar positions in the private sector.

A third was that the knowledge and skills demanded of the role have continued to expand. Crick Owen noted that the work that goes into some items that come before the Board of Selectmen is immense even before it gets to them.

Social media was a fourth concern, as workgroup members felt it creates an expectation from the public that the first selectman is aware of issues and responsive at all times. Llodra was concerned about the toxicity that can exist online, and Simpson was concerned that social media can create echo chambers where incorrect information can circulate.

The demands of day-to-day items often get in the way of other things that might be expected of a first selectman, such as long-term planning. Lastly, they made reference to “challenging attributes embedded in the position.”

At its June 12 meeting, the workgroup will interview South Windsor’s town manager, Michael Mariscalco, and Clinton’s town manager, Karl Kilduff.

Associate Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at jim@thebee.com.

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