Hiring a town administrator or manager is never easy. But what we’re seeing in Derry now, and what happened recently in Londonderry, makes it a whole new ballgame.
In Londonderry, the town didn’t act fast enough to nab its preferred choice, who took another job, and had to start over. In Derry, the top two candidates were brought in to meet staff and the public, only to have the Council Chairman say afterward that no one on the council thought they could offer the job to either of them in good conscience.
No more is it finding a semi-round peg to cram into a round hole and call it good. The right candidate is more than the sum of his or her parts – more than education, willingness to move to town, or even municipal experience.
Just look at what happened in Londonderry, when Kevin Smith, with no municipal experience but a background in politics, was selected as town manager. He seems to be working out just fine.
That could happen in Derry. The first call for applicants sought experience in municipal management. The Council has changed that – the most recent job ad seeks someone with experience in executive management, a far broader category, with municipal government experience preferred.
And one Town Councilor, Al Dimmock, is still holding a preference for a Derry resident. But it’s likely anyone in Derry who wanted the job would have already applied – unless that expanded experience category changes the playing field.
Town Councilor David Fischer commented, “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 want someone who is committed to this town and to making sure that commitment and passion translates into moving Derry forward.”
Town Council Chairman Mark Osborne said the decision to reopen the search was unanimous. He added that not only did the Town need a qualified and dynamic candidate, but someone who would remain for years to come.
We’ll likely never know what happened at the public and staff interviews to convince the councilors they didn’t have the right candidate from the two they had chosen as finalists. And even though some members had earlier said that if the effort didn’t work out, they would turn to a search agency, they’re headed on a new search on their own.
Derry is hardly the easiest place to manage, and the Council’s focus alters with each election. But until a new administrator is chosen, at least the town remains in good hands with Larry Budreau as acting administrator.