Town Council Satisfied with ‘Do It Yourself’ Search

They have no regrets.

Town Council members involved in the search for a new Town Administrator said this week that their Do It Yourself approach to the process is working and an extension of the search will bring the right candidate to them.

The Council began the process in earnest at the end of April to replace John Anderson, who terminated his relationship with the town last October. Using an aggressive schedule developed by member David Fischer, they advertised in May, began reviewing resumes in June and brought two finalists before the community and town staff on June 19.

The Council intended to present a new Administrator by July 1. But after discussing the two finalists, Richard Brown of Massachusetts and Stephen Eldridge of Maine, they announced in a special meeting July 7 that they were reopening the search.

Council Chair Mark Osborne said there were no particular red flags where Brown or Eldridge was concerned; they just weren’t right for Derry.

“They were both well-qualified, both good candidates and we enjoyed our time with them,” Osborne said in a phone interview Friday. “But we determined it was best to reopen the search.” Nothing to cause alarm came from their background checks, Osborne added.

The reopened search will include advertising in the same places as before, with one deletion. “That site only brought us one resume,” Osborne said.

While some Councilors and Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau initially advocated hiring a search firm, the Council eventually agreed to try it on their own. Osborne said he still thinks that was the best course. “The community, the staff and the Council are better situated to know what the town needs,” he said. The search firm staff “doesn’t live here, doesn’t do business here, doesn’t know what goes on,” Osborne said.

The vote was unanimous to reopen the search, Osborne said, adding that he is optimistic. “We hope to have an announcement by mid-September,” he said.

Councilor Joshua Bourdon, who works in the staffing industry, initially advocated that the Council try doing it themselves, and then turn to a search firm if no appropriate candidate came up. He has since decided to continue with the Council-driven search, he said in a phone interview Friday. “This process is working and I’d like to continue with it,” Bourdon said.

“I think it is absolutely working and we have evidence of it working,” Bourdon said. “It’s important to get the right person in here – we’re willing to take all the time we need.”

Bourdon said the process has worked so far for three reasons. First, he said, “I like the fact that the people who apply do it on their own accord.” They aren’t being pushed or coaxed by a “headhunter,” according to Bourdon. “They take the first step, and they’re showing initiative.”

He also thinks the process is working because while the Council does the initial review of resumes, the staff and public are involved through the stakeholders’ forums. “We have multiple stakeholders giving their input,” Bourdon said. While the forum June 19 didn’t pack the hall, he said many of his constituents took the option of watching it on Derry Community Television.

The interview and public forum process also works because it puts the candidate in multiple lights, according to Bourdon. “They show us their writing skills with the cover letter, their private speaking skills in the interview, their public speaking skills in the community and staff forums,” he said.

Bourdon, who was elected this past March, found himself involved in the Council search a little more than a month later. He has no regrets there either, noting, “That’s why I ran for Council. I wanted to help the town find a leader that is worthy of us and well-qualified.”

Bourdon has high praise for the other freshman Councilor, David Fischer, who developed the schedule and acted as facilitator.

Initially, he recalled, Fischer had been an advocate of the search firm option. “Initially, he did not want to do it this way,” Bourdon noted. “But when the vote was cast, he got on board and he led the way. He has shown tremendous leadership.”

Fischer, the administrator of the first search, has no regrets either. While he initially advocated for a search firm based on his experiences as a school superintendent, he said Friday that he still thinks having the Council do the search is the way to go.

Fischer created the first schedule for finding an administrator and tweaked it for the reopened search. It will be essentially the same timeline as the first search but with different dates, he said in a phone interview. The posting of the job went out July 9, with a deadline of Aug. 15. The Council will review resumes on their own time, with all resumes kept in a secure spot in the Council office, and on Aug. 18 they will hold a nonpublic session to go over the applications and determine their semi-finalists. They will update the public on the search in their Aug. 19 regular meeting, and report on the number of applicants.

They will hold private interviews with the semi-finalists Aug. 26, 28 and 30 and announce their finalists in the regular meeting Sept. 2, with stakeholder meetings set for Thursday, Sept. 4. As before, town staff will meet with the finalists in the afternoon and the public will be able to question them in the evening.

On Saturday, Sept. 6, the Council will hold a nonpublic session to review the finalists’ interviews and live interaction with community and staff, Fischer said. The Council will do background and reference checks, and hopes to announce its choice Tuesday, Sept. 16.