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|Duxbury: ‘gold standard’|
|Written by Susanna Sheehan|
|Wednesday, 20 February 2013 10:22|
The two candidates vying to be Duxbury’s next town manager said in interviews last week that one of the main reasons they aspire to this position is Duxbury is considered “the gold standard” for well-run communities.
At a rescheduled meeting last Friday, the Board of Selectmen interviewed the two finalists for the vacancy created by the retirement of Town Manager Richard MacDonald. MacDonald officially retired in January after seven years on the job; however, he is currently serving as interim town manager until selectmen choose his replacement.
The two finalists selected by the town manager search committee are Norwell Town Administrator James Boudreau and Hanson Town Administrator Rene Read. Selectmen decided not to discuss the candidates until their Feb. 25 meeting. At that time, they may choose the town’s next town manager.
Boudreau has been town administrator in Norwell for the past 14 years. Read, who lives on Franklin Street, has served as the town administrator in Hanson since 2009. Selectmen first interviewed Read and then Boudreau in a morning public meeting that was rescheduled from earlier in the week due to the blizzard. They asked each man the same questions, which ranged from having them describe their leadership style, asking about their long range financial planning experience, inquiring about the role of volunteers in town government and asking why they want to work in Duxbury.
Read, 44, was born and raised in Los Angeles. His wife is from Norwell and they have two young sons. Read told selectmen he has 19 years of experience in public administration, beginning with his career as a health agent in Vermont. Before taking the town administrator’s job in Hanson, Read was employed as the assistant town manager in Mashpee and prior to that he served as the acting town administrator and finance director in Harwich. Read graduated from the University of Vermont.
Read said he viewed the role of town manager in Duxbury as a chief executive with more autonomy and more authority than the town administrator in Hanson, whom Read likened to a chief financial officer. He said he had an excellent relationship with both the board of selectmen and the department heads in Hanson and he described how he approached this aspect of his job.
“I have a very co-operative relationship with my department heads now,” explained Read. “We work together to solve problems. As a result I have a terrific working relationship with my board members. I find that if people are empowered early on they can make better decisions and don’t have to be reactive.”
According to Read, one of the biggest challenges he faced in Hanson was two years ago when the town rejected a tax override and he was faced with laying off 25 people in a town with 100 employees. He said that he was able to reduce the number of layoffs to five by gaining control of the budget.
“We had to stop the spending,” he said. “The town habitually was spending from the stabilization fund and we put the brakes on that.”
One new practice Read instituted in Hanson is called “Coffee and Conversation.” Once a month he goes to the senior center and meets residents to discuss issues important to them.
“It’s a real face-to-face involvement, and I think it makes the office more accessible,” he said. “It’s a great avenue that gives people the opportunity to have a human experience.
When selectmen asked Read why he wanted to work in Duxbury, Read replied that in the 10 years he’s lived in town, he’s thought often of working here because Duxbury is such a well-run town.
“I like the way this town is run. It’s run very well. Duxbury has always been the gold standard,” said Read. “I want to be a part of that.”
In his interview, Boudreau echoed these sentiments when asked why he wanted to work in town.
“I applied for the Duxbury job because it’s Duxbury,” he told selectmen. “I think I have the skill set, abilities and temperament to do an outstanding job.”
Boudreau has been town administrator in Norwell since 1998. Previously, he served as town administrator in Holbrook for three years and before that he assisted six state senators. He has a masters of public administration from University of Massachusetts, Amherst and received his bachelors degree in political science at UMASS. The father of three is from the South Shore and lives in Norwell.
Boudreau currently does many of the same things the Duxbury town manager does: he is the procurement officer for bidding in Norwell and he negotiates collective bargaining agreements with unions. Boudreau also has a lot of experience in dealing with Chapter 40B affordable housing developments.
“I enjoy the collective bargaining and understanding the nuances of the contracts,” said Boudreau. “I think it gives you a lot of credibility with the unions. It heads off a lot of problems when you establish relationships with your employees.”
Boudreau points to his financial accomplishments in Norwell, including building up the town’s financial reserves in order to receive a good bond rating, which was then helpful in securing a $54 million loan for new schools.
One of the largest challenges Boudreau faced on the job was after the town rejected a tax override in 2000, which led to layoffs.
“That was really difficult because you know these people,” he said.
Boudreau has also had many successes in his job, such as the passage of a $2.8 million tax override for the school department, the regionalization of the dispatch system, the combination of the town and schools’ information technology departments and the establishment of a new facilities manager position, something that Duxbury is moving forward on.