The Bedford Select Board on Monday approved Town Manager Sarah Stanton’s requested waiver of the 60-day notice requirement in her employment contract, and agreed to establish a seven-member screening committee – two board members and the other five at-large – to interview applicants and narrow the pool to finalists.
Stanton informed the Select Board on March 13 that she would be moving to a new career opportunity. She made her plans public in an announcement on March 28. Stanton hasn’t revealed her employment destination.
Board Chair Bopha Malone said Stanton “offered to stay full time through mid-April and part-time through June to ensure a successful transition.” She also said Colleen Doyle, Assistant Town Manager for Human Resources and Administration, volunteered to serve as interim town manager during the search process. The board on Monday appointed Doyle to the interim position.
Board member Margot Fleischman noted that Doyle and her fellow assistant town manager, Amy Fidalgo, will not apply for the vacant position at the top.
Stanton announced that Monday’s meeting was her last officially with the board, and she used her final town manager’s report as an opportunity to list major accomplishments and extend gratitude. She cited progress made toward a new fire station, economic development, and organization of a Health and Human Services Department, which “set us up to deliver services during Covid.”
“During the pandemic, I think we saw the resiliency of the community and the leadership, kindness, and efforts shown by department heads,” she said.
Malone reported that the town has issued a request for quotes, aimed at executive search firms to oversee the process. She said she expects the Select Board to choose a consultant at its May 8 meeting. Malone said she and colleague Paul Mortenson will review the proposals and make a recommendation, then join the professional to set screening committee membership criteria.
Residents interested in serving as an at-large member should complete a standard application on the Town website (www.bedfordma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1586/Questionnaire-for-Volunteers-2022-PDF?bidId=) and forward it to the Volunteer Coordinating Committee by May 1. Malone said the VCC hopes candidates for initial interviews can be identified by May 21.
The search consultant will screen applications for town manager, and the screening committee will hold interviews in closed session, as permitted in the state open meeting law, Malone said. Names of finalists will be announced. Malone said she hopes for four. She added that there will be opportunities for community input.
Board member Shawn Hanegan suggested expanding the screening committee to nine or eleven members “in order to really get a good cross-section of the town.” But his colleague Emily Mitchell replied that a larger number not only can be unwieldy, but also makes it harder to achieve consensus.
“I think we can find the right five people,” Mitchell said. “We struggle to say no to people who want to help. It is important to think about how we can manage that process as well and as efficiently as possible.”
She added that a larger pool can result in compromised confidentiality and factions within the group. Mortenson agreed, saying, “I think we can get a representative section of the town with seven.”
Fleischman pointed out that the screening committee that served in 2018 had seven members – all of whom “had multiple hats.”
During her regular town manager’s report segment on Monday, Stanton stated, “I’m just so exceptionally proud of the work that has taken place. Department heads and staff are some of the finest people I have ever had the opportunity to work with. They give their all to the town.”
She also thanked Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad, other boards and committees, and her office staff, who “just work so hard and care so much about the town. They really professionalized the operation in a profound way.”
Stanton thanked the Select Board for its support and advocacy. “We faced some really tough challenges and we all navigated them the best we could.” Fleischman is the sole current board member who was serving when Stanton was hired in July 2018. She and her current colleagues extended thanks and best wishes.