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Selectmen Discuss Town Administrator Replacement Process

The Burlington Board of Selectmen held a special meeting last night to discuss how to go about replace Town Administrator Robert Mercer.

The Burlington Board of Selectmen met last night to discuss the procedure of replacing Town Administrator Robert Mercier, . Mercier said his retirement will go into effect at the end of May, 2012.

During the meeting the board discussed how to handle the search and vetting process, the requirements members would like to set for candidates and set a general timeline of the process.

The first thing up for discussion was how to conduct the search process and who would handle the initial vetting and interviews of candidates. The four proposed methods, worked out in advance with Burlington's Human Resource Director Joanne Faust, were to 1) a local screening committee of 7-9 members, 2) using an outside professional firm, 3) a combination of an outside firm assisted by a small local screening committee of 3-5 members or 4) to have the Board of Selectmen conduct the entire process.

Mercier, who is assisting the board with the process, said he "did not recommend having the board conduct the entire process," and instead suggested the members limit themselves to interviewing final candidates and making a hiring decision.

Selectman Robert Hogan said he would like the process to be as apolitical as possible.

"My gut response is take it out of the political realm so there is no question about the process and who we hire," he said. "I would entertain that a professional firm do the bulk of the initial search and then have citizens sit on for a second phase and then we’d have some candidates to consider."

In the end the board decided to go with a combination of a private firm, with an estimated cost between $15,000 and $20,000, that will work with the assistance of a small board of local citizens and/or business/government leaders. The exact make-up of the local committee or the process of appointing members, was not determined. The formation of this committee will be further discussed at the Nov. 14 and Nov. 30 meetings. Faust was tasked with putting out a request for proposal and to submit three to four candidate companies for the board's consideration.

The discussion of candidate requirements was undertaken, but not completed, at the meeting. Mercier opened the talk by stating that for a town with the budget found in Burlington, it would be expected that applicants have a Master's degree in public administration or public finance. He also suggested that though the normal requirement for work experience would be five years, Burlington may want to find people with more time in a related post.

"This is a fairly high-powered community," he said. "You could get someone from the business community, but they might not be familiar with Mass Generals Laws and they are getting more and more complicated. This should not be a training ground."

After some discussion the board members agreed they wanted someone who could "hit the ground running" on day one, and who would look at the big picture rather than be someone who micro-manages.

Finally, the timeline. The board expressed its desire advertise the position on January 1 of next year, to have the professional firm and local screening group conduct interviews by February and to have finalist for Board of Selectmen consideration by mid-March or early April. If all goes well, members hope to announce a new Town Administrator by late April who will be able to begin on May 15.

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