Council Reopens Town Administrator Search

The Derry Town Council has agreed that the search for a new town administrator hasn’t returned the results all were hoping for and thus have decided to reopen the search and seek anew.

The Council held a special meeting on Monday, July 7 to announce the decision to the public and to ask for their support as they seek the best fit for Derry.

Earlier this year, the council decided to take in house the search for a new Town Administrator and has been updating the public on their progress over the succeeding months. Most recently on June 19 the town staff and members of the community met Richard Brown of Massachusetts and Stephen Eldridge of Maine, the Council’s chosen finalists for the position. Initial plans were to announce their choice on July 1.

On Monday, however, Chairman Mark Osborne made a statement that summed up the unanimous decision to start a new search. Osborne spoke of the high quality of both the quest for an administrator and the candidates who applied.

“We as a body have had the good fortune of meeting and corresponding with many talented applicants, all of whom share a mind for governance and a passion for public service,” said Osborne.

The chair spoke of how the council had narrowed candidates down to two “very qualified, intelligent and delightful people. Both of whom earnestly wanted to be Derry’s next town administrator.” He noted how the Council held meetings and negotiations with a final choice, but ultimately none agreed that the search was over.

“We, as a council, unanimously decided that we owed it to Derry to reopen the search for a new town administrator,” said Osborne, adding that no member of the group felt that they could offer the job in good conscience at the current juncture. Osborne indicated that the Council wanted to make sure Derry had not only a highly qualified and dynamic candidate, but one who would remain with the town for years to come.

Osborne conceded that it wasn’t an easy decision but a necessary one and asked for the town’s continued support.

While the meeting adjourned at the conclusion of Osborne’s statement, following which he answered questions from local press, the Council decided to reopen the meeting to give the public a better idea of what they can expect in the process going forward.

The Town Council will be seeking to post the job immediately. While Councilor David Fischer hoped to post as soon as the following day, and a motion was made to expend up to $2,000 for the purpose, it was agreed that staff who will be posting the job description may need to time to get up and running.

A timeline agreed to by the board puts the deadline for applications on Friday, August 15. Fischer hoped that following a series of interviews and two stakeholder forums, they’d have a candidate ready to announce and appoint as new administrator by Tuesday, September 16.

Of importance to the Council were a couple of changes to the job posting, including a salary range not included in the previous posting and more specific language outlining required experience.

The salary outlined will be from $100,000 to $125,000 depending on experience.

New language will be added to indicate that a candidate needs experience in executive management, with municipal government experience preferred. While initial plans indicated that the posting would seek candidates with experience in municipal management only, on a suggestion by Councilor Joshua Bourdon who surmised that those with CEO backgrounds may also be worth consideration the board agreed to expand the qualifications sought.

It was agreed that several quality candidates who were unable to make interviews in the first round will be contacted again.

While the board had previously voted that the eventual administrator will not need reside in Derry, on Monday councilor Al Dimmock, noted that as one member he strongly desired candidates with Derry addresses because he felt they’d be more willing to defend Derry in difficult situations.

Summing up the experience Fischer remarked that he was anxious to get started again and gave credit to the council for the process up to that point. Fischer noted the many hours that went into the search and how seriously all took it.

“The best fit is very, very important because we don’t want to put ourselves in the position where we are settling for someone to fill the position. We don’t want to do that. We want someone who is committed to this town and to making sure that commitment and passion translates into moving Derry forward and making progress; the kind of progress that we expect,” said Fischer.

Bourdon had similar statements. He noted his years of experience in the staffing business and how the process Derry was undergoing was valuable for residents in part because it wasn’t like staffing work. The big difference is that in the staffing industry candidates would be called and urged to come, sometimes having their arms twisted, while those applying through the town-led process are applying because they truly want the job.

“I ask for patience and I’m confident that if you continue to trust us, we’ll have a good product, and that he or she will be a well qualified person,” said Bourdon.

A search for a new administrator began soon after former Town Administrator John Anderson was placed on administrative leave July 12, 2013 after a July 11 incident when he is alleged to have exposed himself to a Direct TV salesman. He was formally charged Aug. 16 and terminated his relationship with the town at the end of October, when his contract was up. His trial is scheduled for July 30.