Selectmen Accept Town Administrator Recommendation
Though the final decision on whether to hire a town administrator will fall to the next first selectman — either Republican Jeff Capeci or Democrat Dan Cruson — the current Board of Selectmen with no incumbents running for re-election, accepted the recommendation of the Town Administrator Workgroup at its September 18 meeting.
The recommendation is a 57-page document affirming that it recommends the hiring of a town administrator to supplement the role of first selectman. It was an eight month effort for the four workgroup members: Maureen Crick Owen (a current selectman), Pat Llodra, Bill Brimmer, and Ned Simpson. The group began on January 9 and finished its report on September 5.
While very similar, a town administrator is a position that is in addition to and complements a first selectman, while a town manager would largely replace a first selectman’s position — or at least a significant amount of a first selectman’s duties — and would locally require a change to the Town Charter.
While the work group split on whether a town administrator or town manager was the best solution long-term, all agreed that in the short-term, a town administrator could help the first selectman in meeting the increasingly “dense” demands on their time. Llodra’s position was that the town administrator was the best choice for the town; Crick Owen believed that the town administrator was a good first step to assist the town now while it evaluated a town manager in the future, and while both Brimmer and Simpson preferred a town manager, they were willing to compromise on an administrator as an intermediary step.
“It’s very thorough,” said First Selectman Dan Rosenthal of the report. “I see no holes I can poke in it. I’m hoping the town benefits from it.”
The final report is the end of a long process by the work group, which has spent the last few months interviewing town officials, both from Newtown and surrounding towns that have either a town manager or town administrator, as part of its information gathering phase. With information gathering done, the group sat down to hash out what its final recommendation would be.
“As part of the work group’s due diligence to craft alternative solutions to these challenges, we identified nine comparable towns to meet with and explore how they have responded,” stated the report. “We met with town managers, mayors, first selectmen and town administrators from Clinton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Manchester, Monroe, Simsbury, South Windsor and Wilton. We also met with several of Newtown’s department heads including a former department head. The interview process took four months.”
The process began with a charge from First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, who credited the hiring of Matt Knickerbocker as town administrator by Wilton for giving him the idea of potentially creating a town administrator position. Previously, Rosenthal thought he would have to charge a Charter Revision Commission with looking at a town manager position.
The report includes statistics and analysis of the other towns, examples of the job responsibilities of town administrators and town managers in the nine comparable towns, as well as analysis of the different types of governments present in Connecticut.
“I think we found a nice consensus,” said Brimmer. “It’s not that I think an administrator is not a good idea, I was thinking beyond it into the future.”
Simpson said he thought that in four to eight years, the town would be looking at a town manager. He said it was “striking” how much he learned, that the workgroup’s efforts were “like a graduate course in municipal management.”
Associate Editor Jim Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.