Selection of Town Manager on Board’s Next Agenda

By the close of next Monday’s meeting, the Bedford Select Board is expected to designate a new town manager. 

The board is scheduling separate interviews for that session with the finalists for the position – Tyngsborough Town Manager Matthew Hanson and Maynard Town Administrator Greg Johnson.

Board Chair Bopha Malone said the conversations will be followed by discussion and a vote. She hopes the new town manager will be on the job by October. 

Colleen Doyle, Assistant Town Manager for Human Resources and Administration, has been serving as interim manager since the departure of Sarah Stanton at the end of April. Stanton resigned to accept a senior management position in state government.

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The seven-member Town Manager Screening Committee, working with a specialized executive search firm, Community Paradigm Associates, recommended the finalists. Bernard Lynch, who heads the search firm, summarized the process and announced the names publicly at Monday’s meeting.

Lynch said the pool of 30 applicants was narrowed to seven after the screening committee’s first meeting in early July. After two withdrawals, for “family reasons,” the group interviewed the five remaining semifinalists, he said.

Hanson and Johnson were the unanimous choices, along with one other finalist who subsequently withdrew. Lynch said that candidate decided to remain with his present position in municipal government, where “many initiatives were underway and the board really felt his presence was necessary.”

Lynch said one quality that the committee recognized in both finalists was “the ability to bring together people with different ideas and different approaches to problems and develop consensus.”  He said each candidate excels at “getting buy-in and building a sense of community.”

Bedford Town Hall
Bedford Town Hall. Photo Robert Dorer

Hanson was hired as Tyngsborough Assistant Town Administrator in November 2015 and was promoted 17 months later. The position title was changed to town manager last December.

He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell; his master’s was in regional economic and social development. Early in his career, he worked as a program manager for the Lowell Police Department and as a management intern in the city manager’s office, during Lynch’s tenure as manager.

Hanson was elected to two terms on the Chelmsford Board of Selectmen and also served on the Finance Committee. He has been an elected Town Meeting representative for 13 years and serves on the board of directors of the Middlesex 3 Coalition, the regional economic development consortium founded by former Bedford Town Manager Rick Reed.

Johnson has served as Maynard Town Administrator since July 2018. After graduating from Norwich University, the private military college in Vermont in 2006, he was an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps for six years, including a deployment to Iraq.

His first municipal experience was in 2013 with the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics in Boston. After receiving a master’s degree in public policy from Brandeis University, Johnson worked as an analyst for the state Executive Office of Administration and Finance.

Johnson was a member of the Community Preservation Committee in Acton and has been active with the Massachusetts Municipal Association, including membership in its Energy and Environment Policy Committee.

Each finalist has an identical position on his resume. Hanson was a project and procurement specialist in the Westford Town Manager’s office for a year-and-a-half. He left for Tyngsborough in November 2015, and Johnson was his successor, until landing the Maynard position in June 2018.

Lynch, a former longtime Chelmsford Town Manager, outlined how he and his team – former Burlington Town Administrator John Petrin and Sharon Flaherty, former editorial page editor at The Lowell Sun – assembled the pool of applicants. 

Besides advertising with professional organizations and direct recruitment of about two dozen prospects, he said, the position was made known to his firm’s 400-name database. They also contacted area institutions’ master’s in public administration programs, many of which maintain alumni lists and job postings.

The interview topics, Lynch said, were derived from several sources – discussions with Select Board members and municipal department heads, a community survey with 221 responses, a public forum, and independent research by the firm.

“We formulated a position statement from this and used it as a recruitment tool, identifying candidates who might fit, and to assess candidates,” Lynch continued.

The screening committee “saw everything that we got” as resume reviews took place, Lynch said. He noted that the 30 applicants were substantially more than recent patterns for similar positions. “Bedford is an attractive job,” he said. “We provided the Screening Committee with a tiering of the candidates and identified those who we believed were not qualified.”

Lengthy interviews with the semifinalists took place on July 26 and 28, he said, with subjects ranging from management style and experience, communication and collaboration, and financial management to sustainability and climate, collective bargaining, citizen relations, and government transparency.

Community Paradigm undertook extensive reference checks once the finalists were selected, Lynch added.

Members of the screening committee were Anne Caron, Lora Goldenberg, Cheryl Milroy, Walter St. Onge, and Erin Sandler-Rathe, along with Malone and Select Board member Paul Mortenson.

Malone thanked the volunteers. “Everyone was really engaged,” she said. 

Lynch concurred. “It was a great committee to work with. There were a lot of diverse points of view that came together.”

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