The Bedford Select Board on Monday appointed two former selectmen, a teacher, a lifelong resident, and a young parent to serve on this summer’s Town Manager Search Screening Committee.
Anne Caron, Lora Goldenberg, Cheryl Milroy, Walter St. Onge, and Erin Sandler-Rathe will join Select Board Chair Bopha Malone and member Paul Mortenson to interview applicants, after initial resumes are screened by the town’s search consultant.
The committee will recommend three or four finalists for public interviews by the full board. It is expected that the board will name one of them to succeed Sarah Stanton, who departed after four-and-a-half years as town manager to take a leadership post in a state agency.
Malone has said that she hopes the new town manager will be in place by Sept. 11.
One of the screening committee’s first tasks will be to attend a community forum on the search process and criteria, hosted by the consultant, Community Paradigm Associates.
The appointees were among seven screening candidates interviewed by the board Monday, chosen by Malone and Mortenson from 15 applicants cleared by the Volunteer Coordinating Committee.
Malone said the group will develop questions for the candidates and make comparisons after the interviews. She said the consultant will handle reference and background checks. The process, up until the interviews with finalists, will be confidential.
Most of Monday’s testimony was presented by the applicants as self-introductions.
Caron, a leader with the Parents Diversity Council and Bedford Embraces Diversity, said she offers the perspective of a parent of young adults looking for a place to live independently. “Housing is something our next town manager needs to take on solidly,” she said. And young families “need to feel comfortable” with town government. Caron added that as a teacher, she recognizes that “nothing should be decided in a vacuum.”
Goldenberg, a Select Board member in the 1990s and longtime leader of the League of Women Voters of Bedford, said she hopes the town will seek a manager who “will be able to be a balancer.” She emphasized the important role of volunteers in town government. “It’s really important that we find someone who has some idea of the importance we place in elected and appointed committees.”
Milroy, a lifelong resident and daughter of a firefighter, works in human relations, which she says aligns with the committee’s role. “We want to keep that small-town feel, but we also want to grow and be creative with the resources we have,” Milroy told the board. “We want someone who is proud to be the town manager here and to have a passion for the town.” Milroy is a member of the 300th Anniversary Task Force.
St. Onge, a former Select Board and Finance Committee member, said the town manager’s skills are going to be important in charting the town’s future. The challenges include collective bargaining with town employee units in an inflationary period, filling vacant storefronts along The Great Road, and maintaining relations with Hanscom Field, the VA Hospital, and neighboring towns.
Sandler-Rathe, a member of the Cultural Council, is a parent of children in Bedford schools. She spoke approvingly of economic and cultural improvements during Stanton’s years as town manager, but added that “there’s a need to communicate better at all levels.” Sandler-Rathe said that the next town manager “needs to be a leader, someone who is very invested in community engagement.”
Two applicants did not make the cut for the screening. Board member Shawn Hanegan stated that all seven are qualified to serve.
John Linz, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission and former assessor, noted that he served on the screening committee in 1988 which resulted in the hiring of Richard Reed as town administrator.
Sue Swanson, active in local climate advocacy, said “it is so important for the town manager to be open to hearing from all the stakeholders and to hear what people want to say.” She added that it is also important to get the facts from professionals.
Select Board member Shawn Hanegan stressed that the board is looking to appoint a cross-section of residents to the committee. In answer to a question from board member Emily Mitchell, applicants commented on the importance of volunteers. Some noted the decline in the number of volunteers.