Third Time Not A Charm In Brattleboro’s Search For A Town Manager
The top candidate to fill the open town manager’s position in Brattleboro, Vermont backed out of the job two hours before the selectboard was set to announce and confirm his contract Tuesday. It’s the third setback in the process for the Windham County town of 12,000.
In July, the town of Brattleboro opened its third search to find a town manager. The selectboard had failed to come to an agreement with top candidates in its previous two attempts.
Following the third cycle of applications, the board scheduled a special meeting on Tuesday evening. The only item on the agenda was to “consider, approve and execute (an) employment agreement with new town manager.” Brattleboro Reformer senior reporter Howard Weiss-Tisman covered the selectboard meeting. “Everyone was there. All the local newspapers were there because this was big news. The town has been looking for a town manager for more than a year. This was the third go-around. And I’ve got to say when the selectboard came in they looked kind of beat up. They looked very dejected and very frustrated. The selectboard chairman opened the meeting and announced that at around four o’clock the candidate called up and pulled out. What some of the selectboard members seemed to say is that he just got cold feet about leaving the community where he lived. We do know it was a man because everyone was referring to him as he. And that’s about all we know.”
Weiss-Tisman’s report notes that board member David Schoales said the candidate had experience as a town manager and was familiar with the state and the legislature.
The Vermont League of Cities and Towns has been helping Brattleboro in its search. Executive Director Steven Jeffrey says it’s not uncommon for a community to undertake two rounds of searches, but three or more is rare. “This is very unusual. They had several candidates that they got to final negotiations with that turned them down. In this situation the finalist was actually offered the job and verbally accepted the job and then had second thoughts and backed out. It’s not unusual to have one misfire but to have three is highly unusual. I don’t think Brattleboro has anything in particular that would give them any more pause than anywhere else. It’s a great little community. It’s got a lot of opportunities there and I just think that they’ve just had a string of bad luck.”
The Reformer’s Weiss-Tisman also isn’t sure why the town is having such a problem making a hire. “Brattleboro has many of the challenges that small towns all over America have: a rising tax rate, infrastructure costs that go up. Vermont and New England the demographics are getting older. There are a lot of challenges but I don’t think any more. And in many ways I think Brattleboro is doing a lot better than many towns in the Northeast. So there’s nothing I can put my finger on.”
The selectboard said it will review the latest batch of applications and contact the top candidates before deciding whether they need to move to a fourth formal application process.
The starting salary for the position is between $80,000 and $95,000.
Former town manager Barbara Sondag left the post last year. Former assistant town manager Patrick Moreland is acting as the interim town manager.