By Pattie Pacella, Neighb News Correspondent
The Acushnet Selectboard interviewed three candidates for Town Administrator at its meeting on 11/26/19, but decided to hold off on making a final decision until Friday, 12/6.
Each Selectboard member asked the same approximate question to the candidates, and each person was given an opportunity to give a brief statement about themselves as well as close with a statement as to why they should be the next Town Administrator.
John “Jack” Healy told the board that he has been “in the business” a long time. He offered his services at a part-time rate, explaining that he collects a pension and is limited in how much he can make. He said he would be happy to sign a contract for three years and then re-evaluate at that time.
When asked by Mr. Cabral on how he would handle the budget process, Mr. Healy stated it would be a team effort with the Treasurer/Collector and Accountant. He said they would draft letters to the department heads and review it together before bringing it to the Selectboard for approval.
Mr. Cabral also asked what he thought the role of free cash is to balancing a budget.
Mr. Healy responded, “it is not free, and it’s not cash.” He said he would likely leave free cash alone and would have to look at the numbers.
Selectboard member Kevin Gaspar asked about what sources the funds would be allocated from to balance the budget.
Mr. Healy responded, “all of them.”
He clarified, stating Department of Revenue, and line items in the budget.
Mr. Gaspar also asked if Mr. Healy felt the current public pension system is sustainable and if so, is it sustainable over time. Mr. Healy said he did not think it was sustainable, and he did not have any suggestions for how to make it sustainable.
Selectboard member David Desroches asked his question around OPEB (“Other Post Employment Benefits,” which is the fund for retired town workers) and how it would be handled. Mr. Healy responded that he would have to review Acushnet’s numbers, but he said that OPEB is always a worry and the liability tends to increase yearly.
Mr. Desroches also asked how to keep the best and brightest employees with the Town, when, at times, not being able to pay the most. Mr. Healy said it was about respecting employees and their duties. He said he would help them to grow their skills.
The board also interviewed Michael Mullen, who has worked for the Chief of Staff in Brockton and worked in the statehouse.
Mr. Mullen said he became very interested in learning about Acushnet when he heard that the previous TA had been hired in W. Bridgewater. He said that he loves small town politics, and has been in/and around Acushnet to learn more about the town. Mr. Mullen stated he was familiar with budget development and the process from his experience on the School Committee in Rockland, as well as his position as a current Selectboard member there.
Mr. Gaspar asked him what his experience with collective bargaining was and Mr. Mullen stated that he has negotiated many contracts including non-union. As a Selectboard member in Rockland, he has also recently had experience with contracts for their Town Administrator.
He said it was important to build trust across the table with respect to collective bargaining units.
Mr. Desroches asked about Economic Development in Acushnet and Mr. Mullen stated that he believes there is real opportunity on South Main Street. He said he has been visiting Acushnet to get to know the community and had breakfast at a few places in Town. He said he loves the community and quaint village.
In closing, Mr. Mullen said that he truly loves and has a passion for local government and works to make an impact.
Lastly, the Selectboard interviewed present interim Town Administrator and Acushnet’s Director of Finance, Julie Hebert. She gave an overview of her background stating she had a law degree, and no degree in finance.
She stated she was able to work as a town accountant for a number of years and her experience as a lawyer helped her throughout that employment. She stated that she believes her legal background has been the backbone to her career in finance.
Mr. Cabral asked Ms. Hebert about the Town budget process. She stated that they send out drafts to the Department heads to ask about issues, concerns they think may arise, and try to work it out individually with the department heads.
Ms. Hebert said they would then take it back to the Selectboard for their approval before taking it to the Finance Committee.
Mr. Gaspar asked his question about the revenue sources for the budget. Ms. Hebert explained the different budget revenues, as well as free cash and overlay. She said there were only so many categories that the monies could come from.
Mr. Desroches asked Ms. Hebert his question about employing the best and brightest without the highest rate of pay.
Ms. Hebert stated that she was happy that the Selectboard did the wage classification schedule and that she feels they should remain in the middle range with respect wages.
She said she did not feel they should be at the highest wage level, but certainly not the bottom of the either. Ms Hebert stated that keeping morale up with employees and acknowledging they are doing good work is always a good tactic to follow as well.
If given the time she would like to send out a monthly newsletter to inform residents, but also acknowledge hard working and good departments within the town. She said it was important to appreciate the employees.
In regards to Economic Development, Ms. Hebert stated that she realized in talking with the townspeople that being a small, quaint town is what many residents want. She said with the MasterPlan being initiated by the Director of Planning, it gives residents a chance to be part of it and share their opinions.
In closing, Ms. Hebert stated she did not have the experience with a Town Administrator background, other than serving the Selectboard as interim in the last three months; however, she does have the municipal finance background and her legal experience.
She said she believes she has an advantage because she already works for the town and has a good rapport with the Selectboard as well as the employees. She said she loves the Town of Acushnet where she has worked for the last three years.
The Selectboard decided to take the matter under consideration, over the Thanksgiving holiday. They will make their decision at a meeting on Friday, 12/6, at 3:30 p.m.
Meetings are available for viewing on the town’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQLn-V7X9rp0JdWXh445neQ
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