Search for administrator continues
The committee tasked with finding the town’s next administrator is currently sifting through 24 resumes so it can make its recommendations to the Town Council.
Bruce Keiser has been the town’s chief executive since 2006 when he replaced Mark Haddad. His retirement announcement in May came as a surprise to many. Keiser said his motivation to retire was so he could start crossing off items on his bucket list and spend more time with his grandchildren.
Keiser initially mentioned October as a target month for his retirement, but that has since been revised to Sept. 1. He plans to have his family pictures off the walls of his second-floor Town Hall office by the end of the month. However, Keiser will use the vacation time he has accrued, essentially making this week his final full week of work. Monday’s council meeting will be his last one as town administrator.
“I might as well enjoy the rest of the summer while I can,” said Keiser, a golfer and avid sailor.
As for members of the search committee, their job is just starting. After advertising nationally for the position, the town received 25 resumes from interested candidates. One applicant has since withdrawn his candidacy, and the committee is now left with two dozen resumes to consider.
The search committee is comprised of seven people, including two members of the council. Republican Blake Dickinson and Democrat Gene Mihaly represent the Town Council. The remaining members are Melody Drnach, Arlene Petit, Cathy Kaiser, Anthony Antine and John Murphy.
All meetings are behind closed doors. The town won’t release the names of the 24 applicants, and according to Council President Kristine Trocki, they will remain confidential. However, Keiser did give a few glimpses into the talent pool. He said none of the applicants reside in Jamestown, and only about “five or six” live in Rhode Island. Keiser admitted to recognizing a few of the names. The rest of the applicants come from out of state.
As for Trocki, she doesn’t know the name of a single applicant. While Dickinson and Mihaly have front-row seats into the process, Trocki said the remaining three councilors have nothing to do with this step of the search.
“I haven’t seen any resumes,” she said. “I’ll weigh in when the search committee shortens the list of applicants.”
Keiser said the committee is now sorting through the applications to weed out those candidates who aren’t qualified. “The initial step is to assess the qualifications,” Keiser said. “That’s where they are now.”
From the qualified individuals, Keiser expects committee members to choose less than 10 applicants that they believe will be a good fit for the post. To obtain this number, Keiser says they will use a scoring matrix for screening purposes. Those with the best scores advance to the second stage. Keiser anticipates the committee will hold telephone or face-to-face interviews with the candidates who fared the best using the scoring system it established. He doesn’t expect all 24 applicants to be interviewed by the committee.
Following interviews, the committee’s final task is to recommend no more than three candidates for the entire Town Council to consider. Keiser said there’s no timetable, but Trocki says it’s almost time for a report from the panel.
“The committee has already met a couple of times, so I think it’s time to see where they stand,” she said.
Trocki and Keiser agree the ideal candidate should move to Jamestown, but that’s not a deal breaker. Keiser himself lived in South Kingstown during the lion’s share of his tenure. Other municipal workers live out of town, and some like Police Chief Ed Mello move to the island after they accept the job and begin working.
In 2005, the state legislature passed a law that addressed the matter of municipal workers having to live in the town where they work. The city of Providence pressed them to pass legislation prohibiting a residency requirement on municipal workers and teachers.
“Because it was woefully unenforceable,” says Keiser.
The next year lawmakers made it legal for cities and towns to enter into employment agreements that have a residency clause. For instance, if Jamestown hires someone who lives in Boston, they can say they have to live “x” miles from Town Hall.
Trocki said these types of clauses haven’t been discussed yet. “It very much depends on the candidate,” she said.
When Keiser leaves for vacation next week, Finance Director Tina Collins will become the de facto town administrator, although her raise won’t kick in until Sept. 1. When a new chief executive is hired, Collins will return to her current rate of pay. Collins currently makes $82,426. When Keiser’s retirement is official, she will take on his salary of $103,340.
Keiser expects the transition from finance director to interim town administrator to be a smooth one for Collins.
“That’s just the type of person she is,” Keiser quipped.
Since Tom Tighe’s retirement as police chief, Collins has filled in for Keiser in his absence. Nobody will be promoted to finance director during the interim period – Collins will do both jobs.
“She’s going to do both jobs simultaneously,” Keiser said. “But all the department heads are going to pitch in. She’ll have the legal authority of town administrator, but she will be assisted collegially by the rest of the staff.”
Keiser said Collins understands the town administrator position, the reason he recommended her appointment.
“She already works very close to me,” he said. “Being finance director, she has close contact with all the department heads about expenditures. She’s familiar with operating demands. Since we are a small community, there is daily interaction.”
Keiser said town leadership should continue to keep the local government operating efficiently during the transition.
“They won’t miss a beat,” he said.
However, if this search comes back negative, Keiser and Trocki aren’t sure what action to take. Keiser doesn’t know if the Town Council will want to continue having Collins wear two hats for another search period. He said they could always consider another existing department head.
If that’s the case, they will advertise the positions again. “We start at the beginning,” Trocki said.
Keiser said Narragansett is currently in its third round of applicants for a new town manager. Trocki isn’t sure how long Jamestown’s search will last.
“We won’t accept anyone we don’t love,” she said.
Collins was unavailable to talk with the Jamestown Press late Tuesday and was unable to participate in a conference call along with Trocki and Keiser. Keiser was able to confirm that Collins had not applied for the position.