The Derry Town Council will take a DIY approach, at least temporarily, in its search for a new Town Administrator.
In its March 18 meeting, the Council discussed the process by which it will recruit and choose an administrator. Human Resources Director Larry Budreau has been Acting Town Administrator since July, when John Anderson was placed on administrative leave.
New chairman Mark Osborne initiated the discussion. “We owe it to ourselves to decide, do we want to hire a search firm or do it within this body? We need to start this conversation it is long overdue,” he told the board and audience.
Council member David Fischer, the new representative for District 3, said he would prefer to see the town use a search firm. As a Superintendent of Schools before retirement, he said, he worked in the hiring process with many school boards. “It’s critical,” Fischer said, “that you have a pool of candidates worthy of careful consideration.”
Fischer continued, “A search agency will make us more transparent, more capable, and provide a candidate worthy of our consideration. Yes, there is a cost involved but it is minimal and brings huge dividends with the right candidate. It is the best value for the town.”
Phyllis Katsakiores agreed. “It is so important to pick the right person,” she said. “To move Derry forward, it has to be a person we can work with.
Joshua Bourdon, the new Councilor at Large, pressed for doing it in-house even though he is employed in the staffing industry. “A staffing firm would be easier,” Bourdon said, adding, “But we owe it to 30,000 people to take this on.”
With the Internet, a successful search can be done in-house, Bourdon said, adding, “I think we should give it a month.”
He added that in his business, which is recruitment for the health-care industry, he often sees hospitals and care facilities want to do it on their own. They only call in outside help when that has failed to produce a quality candidate, he said.
“I accept the responsibility of doing this,” Bourdon said.
Before continuing to poll the board, Osborne warned the remaining Councilors to avoid “specifics” and names of former Administrators.
“I’m a cheapskate,” Councilor Al Dimmock said. “I don’t like to spend money. The administrators we got through the last few searches did not stay a long time. People elected this board to do the best it can for the Town of Derry.”
Dimmock said in addition to the Council, he would like to see a “citizen panel” go over the resumes before a Council vote.
Former Chairman Michael Fairbanks said he was willing to try doing it on their own. The caveat, he said, was the time frame. He didn’t think it could be done in Bourdon’s 30 days and suggested 60.
Cardon said, “I’ve been around a while and seen the Town Administrators we’ve had.” People in that position, he said, “seem to go from one town to the next. If we do it ourselves, that may limit the pool of candidates but I think we can do it on our own.”
The consensus was 5 to 2 in favor of trying to do it in-house. “We’ll give it a shot,” Osborne said.
Osborne crafted two motions to be approved. The first one was to move that the Town Council “of its own accord, advertise, solicit and accept resumes and interview all qualified candidates” for Town Administrator. This passed 5-2, with Fischer and Katsakiores the dissenting votes.
The second motion was to establish a subcommittee of three Councilors to draft an advertisement suitable for print and electronic media in order to solicit resumes, with a goal of bringing the ad back to the full Council by April 1.
Both Katsakiores and Fischer expressed concern about this motion. “I am concerned about breaking up into groups,” Fischer said, while Katsakiores asked, “How will the three people be picked?”
Osborne pointed out that the only thing the subcommittee would do was to draft an ad. “Nothing gets out,” he said, “without all seven of us approving it.”
“I will never support allowing three people to do our job,” Katsakiores said.
Cardon pointed out that the next meeting was April 1, which would lead to “doing nothing for two weeks.”
The Council agreed to have a special meeting Tuesday, March 25, at 7 p.m. to work on crafting the ad and the qualifications they want for an Administrator.