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Pittsfield Hires New Building Commissioner

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The city of Pittsfield, Massachusetts has hired a new building commissioner after a months-long vacancy.

At the last city council meeting before a summer break through mid-August, city clerk Michelle Benjamin read out the news: “Honorable members of the city council, submitted herewith for your consideration is the appointment of Jeffrey Clemons as building commissioner. Respectfully submitted, Mayor Linda M. Tyer.”

Clemons’ appointment – which passed unanimously – came after the former building inspector Gerald Garner quit in March to work for Adams, after over a decade in Pittsfield.

Councilor At-Large Earl Persip pressed Tyer to expound on the vacancy.

“It’s been about three months since our vacancy has occurred, and so it’s put a bit of a strain on the department," responded the mayor. "Some of the important procedures that only a commissioner can conduct have been delayed, however we were able to persuade one of our internal employees to take an acting commissioner position so that we could continue to operate as efficiently as possible.”

Al Leu was that internal employee.

Persip asked Tyer if Garner had left the city over “money reasons.” After Tyer said she wouldn’t speak for the former commissioner, Persip read quotes Garner gave to the Berkshire Eagle explaining his departure.

“’They will never not be busy. It’s quite the balancing act, doing the job there.’ He said he expects the city will continue to struggle to fill the position because of the salary. ‘Its offering should be higher,’” read Persip.

“I want to just clarify something," said Tyer. "He did receive his entitled compensation increases during the tenure of my administration. I can’t speak to what occurred prior to my becoming mayor, so I can’t respond to that part of the quote, but I do think he makes a point about compensation being a challenge, especially in building commissioner positions, which are actually becoming more complicated, not less, much more demands on building commissioners and building inspectors, so he makes a valid point about compensation particularly in Pittsfield when our neighbors are paying more.”

Garner’s departing salary was just under $70,000, but before the city conducted a management pay scale study, Tyer said she believed his salary was around $55,000.

“After the consulting work was completed, his was one of the positions who received a pretty significant increase due to the fact that that salary was so far below competitive salaries for building commissioners," said Tyer. "So that occurred prior to me becoming mayor.”

With the new appointment, the mayor made it clear that the city wouldn’t undervalue the position again.

“We have found a highly qualified candidate that I believe will be an asset to our community and we have offered him $73,714 for his starting salary,” said the mayor.

Clemons, building inspector of Lee and Lenox since 2016, received high praise from Persip.

“I know Jeff, I worked with him out in Lenox, and he is a very qualified person and we are very lucky to have someone who is this qualified and knows the job and probably is going to change this department for the better,” said the councilor.

Tyer noted that Clemons’ starting salary will be above the $70,000 or so currently budgeted for the position, prompting a rejoinder from Persip.

“We will be able to cover that additional $3,714 inside of the current approved building inspector’s budget,” said Tyer.

“Well I would hope we would be able to cover $3,000 in a budget this big,” said Persip.

The department’s 2020 line item is around $450,000.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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