Select Board Seeks Resident Input on Next Town Manager - Nov 10th, 2022
Public forum held via remote participation. Meeting information was available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/30707/18.
(Bernie Lynch, Consultant) Mr. Lynch's firm was hired by the town to assist with the search for a new Town Manager. His goal for tonight is to find out what qualities residents would like to see in their new Town Manager, along with what they see as issues in town. Mr. Lynch works for Community Paradigm, and he's a former Town Manager of Chelmsford and a former City Manager of Lowell. His firm has done over 90 administrator searches in the last seven years. Tonight, he'd like to focus on the skills that a new Town Manager should have, and what the town's challenges are. He's also interested in hearing about the community's strong points, as these could help convince a candidate to take a position here.
(Steve DeCourcey, Select Board) Mr. DeCourcey says it's important to hear from the public. He notes that there's a survey up on the town's website, which will be available until November 15th.
(Phil Goff) Mr. Goff asks about Mr. Lynch's approach to the search process. He also asks about the directions other communities have taken.
(Bernie Lynch) Mr. Lynch said they started by speaking with members of the Select Board, posting a survey, and speaking to department heads. The goal is to gather information and develop an understanding of Arlington. This will feed into a position statement that's used to advertise the opening. Once the position is advertised, they'll take applications, conduct interviews, and bring finalists to the Select Board. They'll try to cast as wide a net as possible in order to assemble a strong pool of candidates. Mr. Lynch says the market for municipal managers is very competitive right now.
(Phil Goff) Mr. Goff asks if Mr. Lynch will be looking out of state.
(Bernie Lynch) Mr. Lynch says they'll look nationwide, and they plan to reach out to several national organizations. He says that geography plays a role, both in what communities and the candidate are looking for.
(Lynette Culverhouse) Ms. Culverhouse thinks there should always be resident input in major decisions. She'd like a hiring committee that includes residents. She hopes that Mr. Lynch is willing to look beyond traditional town managers, for people who have community organizing or non-profit experience. She wants someone to deal with the cultural problems in the police department, and someone who can think outside the box, and include more diverse ideas.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray says the people who are here are the people who are always here. She hopes there's more community engagement. Ms. Dray says the town has been fractured, as of a few years ago. She says there are capital-T and small-t town groups, and she hopes the Town Manager sees small-t groups as partners. These are groups like Arlington EATS and Arlington Fights Racism. She hopes the new Town Manager will take a fresh look at public safety, because we have problems.
(Bernie Lynch) Mr. Lynch says he understands this issue, from his time as Lowell's City Manager. He says that town managers have become more focused on community engagement during the last few years.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray says that a lot of things in Arlington are done by volunteers, but it's a closed group of volunteers.
(Kristen Anderson) Ms. Anderson would like to find a Town Manager who's got experience in attracting commercial businesses, and commercial development. She says that Cambridge and Somerville have a better balance of commercial to residential, and lower tax rates. She says that commuting is a waste of time and it would be better if people could work in the community where they live.
(Bernie Lynch) Mr. Lynch says he's heard that Arlington's tax base is predominantly residential.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says he'll try to answer the questions that Mr. Lynch posed at the beginning of the meeting. He felt that Adam Chapdelaine, our last town manager, was a good communicator, diplomatic, and politically savvy. Mr. Revilak feels that these qualities helped make Mr. Chapdelaine an effective Town Manager. He also appreciated Mr. Chapdelaine's efforts to work across municipal boundaries, through organizations like the Metro Mayor's Coalition and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. Some challenges are regional, and are best addressed by communities working together in collaboration. As for Arlington's challenges, Mr. Revilak thinks the main ones are land use, transportation, and adapting to climate change. While Arlington isn't the sprawliest of communities, we made a lot of the same bad decisions as everyone else in the twentieth century, and we will need leadership to address them.
(Mona Mandall) Ms. Mandall lists the budget deficit, equity in the Arlington Public Schools, affordable housing, diversity and inclusion, and supporting small businesses as being some of Arlington's challenges. There's also climate justice and the climate emergency. She says that Arlington has a strong history of civic involvement and the new Town Manager should be perceived as being open to all viewpoints, and not focused on protecting the town's interests. Ms. Mandall mentions the budget deficit and the need to avoid overrides. In terms of skills, Ms. Mandall would like to see community building experience, being collaborative, experience in governance, talent, and being progressive. She'd like to see more efficient processes in town. Ms. Mandall says that Arlington is a leader, and the new Town Manager should build relations with all groups. She'd also like to see them build trust with the police department.
(Lynette Culverhouse) Ms. Culverhouse says it's important to have leadership that's transparent, to have the ability to admit when mistakes are made, and to learn from those mistakes. She says our leadership has made mistakes, especially in the police department.
(Phil Goff) Mr. Goff thinks that Mr. Chapdelaine was a good person for the job. He'd like to see the new Town Manager recognize the power of Mass Ave and its importance to the town. Mass Ave connects everything, and transit is also key. Mr. Goff thinks that Mass Ave is decent, but it could be made so much better by redevelopment in the business districts, and by having more density on some sites.
(Robin Bergman) Ms. Bergman thinks the next Town Manager needs to do more with small businesses and artists. She says there's almost no studio space left in Metro Boston, with real estate values being as high as they are. Her studio is in West Concord, and even that's getting too expensive. She'd like to see a diverse pool of candidates and she likes the idea of reaching out to non-traditional sources. She asks how Mr. Lynch plans to reach out to people.
(Bernie Lynch) Mr. Lynch says he'll use several posting organizations that focus on municipal government. He says that most communities focus on municipal experience, and people who are interested in these jobs have experience in that area. He says that some people who work in the private sector aren't a good fit for municipal work, but he'll be open to that idea.
(Robin Bergman) Ms. Bergman hopes that Mr. Lynch will reach out to the artist community directly.
(Rajeev Soneja) Mr. Soneja is a member of the Arlington Human Rights Commission, but he's speaking as an individual. He'd like to see a Town Manager that recognizes the importance of diversity, affordable housing, and people in minority communities. He hopes they can be proactive about addressing issues like swastikas being drawn in our schools, and Black Lives Matter banners being torn down. Mr. Soneja notes that some of the most diverse precincts in Arlington also have the lowest voter turnout. Town committees are mostly composed of white, upper-class people. He agrees about the importance of Mass Ave, and says that people feel unsafe biking and walking across crosswalks. He says that Arlington doesn't have many diversity events that involve members of minority communities. It would be nice if there were ways for people to find out about opportunities for engagement when they move here.
(Barbara Thornton) Ms. Thornton was raised by a city manager, so she's familiar with the pressures, problems, and issues they face. She says a good Town Manager needs to be like the leader of an orchestra. They have to please the Select Board, but residents of the town also have to be happy; they're like the orchestra's audience. Part of the Town Manager's job is to get department heads to work together as a team, care about what each other are doing, and to care about the townspeople. She says there are a lot of groups that contribute to the quality of life in town, and the Town Manager needs to weave this into the minds of department heads.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray asks if there's a selection committee. She asks how much transparency there is in the process, and how people can stay informed.
(Bernard Lynch) Mr. Lynch says there's not a selection committee -- the Select Board chooses the Town Manager. There may be a screening committee as part of the process. He says the position profile will be a public document, as is likely to be posted on the town's website. Candidate screening will take place in executive sessions of the Select Board. Once the finalists have been chosen, their names will be made public, and they'll be interviewed publicly. He says this is a requirement in Massachusetts.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray asks Mr. Lynch how he controls for bias.
(Bernard Lynch) Mr. Lynch says it's challenging to do. One can try to have blind interviews by removing names and personal information from resumes. It's harder to do that with positions held and communities where applicants have worked. If you know where a person has worked, a few google searches will generally give you an idea of who they are. Taking that information out means that you're also removing information about the candidate's experience and qualifications. Mr. Lynch says that communities are becoming more interested in seeing what underrepresented groups are applying for positions, and some of that information disappears if you have too blind a process.
(Robin Bergman) Ms. Bergman asks about the timeline for the process.
(Bernard Lynch) Mr. Lynch says they expect to have the position statement ready in December, and to start taking resumes in January. Interviews should start in February, with a candidate selected probably in early April. Mr. Lynch says that 60-day notice periods are common, which means the new Town Manager could start around next June.
(Lynette Culverhouse) Ms. Culverhouse asks if the town is committed to a diverse applicant pool, and to looking at people with community organizing and non-profit experience.
(Bernard Lynch) Mr. Lynch says that about 70% of their searches have put women in the finalist pool, and about 30--35% of the positions filled were by women. He says they take the diversity of the applicant pool very seriously.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray asks about plans for further outreach.
(Bernard Lynch) Mr. Lynch says they're always willing to take feedback. He says they typically use forums, surveys. There's additional community engagement at the end, once the finalists have been selected.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray thinks that Mr. Lynch will get more input by hearing from different groups of people.
(Steve DeCourcey) Mr. DeCourcey says the comments are helpful to the board, and may be helpful to applicants as they do due diligence and watch the recording of this forum.