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Frustration mounts over Town Manager search

December 12, 2012

Town Council Member Douglas McLauglin expressed his frustration about being left in the dark regarding the selection of a new town manager, five weeks after the new town council was elected.

NARRAGANSETT -Members of the newly elected Narragansett Town Council remain uniformed about the process and potential outcome of the town’s search for a new town manager. The search committee, which was created in July by the council to assist in researching and interviewing potential candidates, is still convened and searching for final candidates.

“We’ve kind of been thrown in the middle of it,” said Town Council President James Callaghan. “I can’t comment on the process because I don’t know much about it. Hopefully, we can get the committee’s thoughts soon.”

Douglas McLaughlin expressed consternation regarding the new council members’ lack of actual knowledge behind the process and criteria that the search committee is applying to prospective town manager candidates.

“I don’t even know what the process is and I have yet to meet with the members of the search committee,” said McLaughlin. “All I hear are rumors of who they have picked and I haven’t been advised as to what the criteria is.”

“I know there is some suggestions for putting this off to the new year, which I don’t understand,” he added. “There doesn’t seem to be any urgency, and I haven’t received any official notification that Hoxsie has even applied. I am very frustrated with the whole process.”

The search committee, which held its first meeting in August, met with the former town council at the end of October to suggest that the town manager position be re-advertized because of a lack of viable candidates.

“We reviewed each resume in detail, approximately 62, and of those the committee narrowed it down to 10,” said Edward Avarista, Chair of the search committee in October. “Of those 10, three were not available and we interviewed seven. After those interviews, the search committee concluded there was one person it was interested in bringing in for a second interview.”

At the time, Avarista also suggested changes to the presented qualifications for the position, including removing the requirement that a candidate need a Masters degree and instead asking for more experience. He also suggested that such experience might not be involved directly in a previously held town manager position so long as the candidate can demonstrate steady and meaningful promotion in prior professions.

“Under minimum qualifications, we did not feel that a masters was required,” said Avarista in October. “We also felt that based on our interviews that we wanted a candidate to have five years of increasing, responsible management. Prior town management experience we felt could be put in as preferred but not necessary.”

Some council members held reservations about removing the masters degree requirement.

“I don’t want to water down expectation,” said Town Councilwoman Susan Cicilline-Buonanno in October. “I agree [with the search committee], but with those degrees come a lot of experience and it does matter. We want to have a high expectation and it is important that we have someone that is well-qualified and has the cognitive ability to do the job.”

New and incumbent town council members declined to comment specifically on the work of the search committee, but Cicilline-Buonanno did express some frustration about information about candidates and the committee’s work leaking out into the public.
“I am blown away that there is conversation around the search committee because I thought until the process is done we would be quiet,” said Cicilline-Buonanno. “I am happy to look at the applications when we get there, but I feel [discussion] is premature, which makes it difficult because I want them to finish their work.”

“Finding the town manager is the biggest job we are going to do, and we want to do it well,” she added. “I have the utmost confidence in the search committee that the process is fair and open, and I appreciate the time and effort they have taken and I am looking forward to who those names are.”

Callaghan struck a similar tone of optimism that the search committee would successfully complete is research and candidate selection.

“I look at [the search] as more of an opportunity than a burden,” said Callaghan. “We will do the best we can and make the right decision for the best candidate, whoever that may be.”

Avarista stated that the search committee anticipates forwarding final candidates to the new town council within the next 10 days.

Southern Rhode Island Newspapers
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