Council to begin search for new Town Manager
A somber looking, serious-toned Town Council expressed its reaction to the resignation of Town Manager Ed Roberge at Wednesday night’s council meeting, while also putting the wheels in motion to find his replacement. Roberge submitted his letter of resignation on Oct. 21, with an effective date of Dec. 20.
First Warden Ken Lacoste said the council wants to begin the process of looking for an interim town manager, while also forming a search committee to find Roberge’s successor. The prevailing consensus among council members seemed to be to have a town manager in place by June of 2020.
Lacoste noted that Roberge gave the Town Council 60 days-notice, as is stipulated in his contract. “With that 60 days-notice, I didn’t want to wait to get the ball rolling. As we know there are a lot of projects in the works. So, it’s important to keep the ball rolling.”
The council voted 4-1 to accept Roberge’s resignation. Councilor Chris Willi made the motion, which was seconded by Sven Risom. Second Warden André Boudreau dissented, saying he “wasn’t going to accept” the resignation until he learned of the reason for the town manager’s departure.
“So, the public is clear. We don’t know,” said Boudreau, referring to the reason for Roberge’s resignation. “I think it’s important for us to know.” That’s why, he said, “I’m not prepared to accept this resignation.”
Boudreau said he tried to contact Roberge to get an answer, while also expressing frustration with the community. “For a community that prides itself on coming together,” he said, “there are a lot of nasty people out there. So, here we are. And I would like answers. That’s why I am not going to accept his resignation, until I have answers.”
Risom said he spoke with Roberge about extending his tenure beyond his Dec. 20 end date. “He indicated to me that that was not something he was ready to consider.”
Councilor Martha Ball seemed to search for words to vocalize her sentiments, and then said she “felt blindsided by what’s happened.”
Resident David Lewis said, “I think the public would want a clear definition from him as to what they can expect from his time in his office.” He added: “Numerous people, myself included, have various things we would like to discuss with him.” Lewis said he believed it was “important to the community.”
Willi said he spoke with Roberge who said he was in the process of developing a presentation regarding the status of existing projects for the council’s first meeting in November. “He said things planned for the beginning of January had stopped.” Willi suggested that an interim town manager work with Roberge “while he was still here” so that there could be a fluid transition.
Willi also said he asked Roberge, who was on vacation, to have a “one-on-one” with the Town Council. “We need an exit interview. I think that’s part of the process. It’s appropriate.”
Lacoste outlined how the previous search for a town manager was conducted, and then asked the council how it wanted to proceed. He suggested consolidating personnel from the last search, which was comprised of two search committees. One was a five-member town employee committee, and the other was comprised of seven members from the community.
Willi, who acted as an ex-officio committee member during the last search, agreed that the committee should be consolidated, suggesting one 13-member committee. He said the council should canvass members to see if they would serve again.
“I don’t think this needs to take 10 months,” said Willi, who noted that the town could disseminate advertising materials to various outlets for 45 days, and then begin the interview process.
“I would like a town manager in place before June, because I’m not going to go into an election” without one in place, said Boudreau. “We need a town manager in place by June, or May, or March.”
“I think realistically we can expect March,” said Willi, noting that the town was familiar with the search process having recently embarked on a search with the hiring of Roberge, who was appointed in Sept. of 2017.
Former committee member Margie Comings, who was in attendance, said that conducting a search during the winter months presents challenges, and she wasn’t sure if the town could meet a March deadline. She said the search could begin in March “to have someone in place by the summer.”
“Let’s keep moving,” said Risom, who noted that the council should review “what worked well, and what didn’t, and what needs to be improved” regarding the town manager search process.
Lacoste said he is seeking feedback from Roberge regarding revisions of the town manager’s job description for search purposes. He also said the council should seek input from Finance Director Amy Land.
As for hiring an interim town manager, Risom said, “I think this is an important time to not lose momentum. We need to continue the momentum we have. So, their job will be to keep the momentum going.”
Risom said the interim town manager should be someone outside of town government. He said that could include candidates who live on the mainland.
“I agree with Sven,” said Boudreau. “It will fall on us to do more work.” He also said that he “expects low morale to start happening at Town Hall. I think I’ve seen it the last couple of days. We as council members need to support our staff as best we can to keep things rolling.”
“I think we have a very competent and experienced staff,” said Lacoste. “They have the ability to keep the ball rolling. We’re in a strong position along those lines.” He said the interim town manager will have to work closely with the staff for the next four or five months.
The council will continue the town manager search discussion at its work session on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 4 p.m.