COVENTRY — Coventry’s years-long search for a town manager has finally come to an end.
The Coventry Town Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a contract for Benjamin Marchant, whose resume includes management positions in municipalities throughout the country.
Town Council President Ann Dickson said Tuesday that she “breathe[d] a sigh of relief” when the vote was taken during this week’s council meeting.
“When I first started with the council, one of my first tasks to work on with the former council was to review resumes for a town manager,” Dickson said Monday. “That was in November, 2018.”
The Coventry Town Council has been searching for someone to fill the town manager position since Graham Waters resigned in April of 2018, working with the Massachusetts-based search firm Community Paradigm Associates to recruit candidates.
On the recommendation of consultant Bernard Lynch, who had attributed the struggle to find a new manager largely to the salary and to “extremely restrictive” language in the qualifications section of the town charter, the council has taken a number of steps to widen the pool of applicants.
The council increased the starting salary for the position, and in November voters approved a charter amendment that removed the requirement that a town manager hold a master’s degree in public- or business administration or a similar field.
“We read through many resumes, we interviewed many people, and we looked for the right fit for our town,” Dickson said of the lengthy search process.
She said that Marchant, who has a Master of Public Administration in Fiscal Administration from Northern Illinois University, exceeded the qualifications outlined in the charter.
“He is a professional manager with experience at the township and city levels,” she said in an email.
Marchant comes to Coventry from Springettsbury Township, Pennsylvania, where he served as township manager from 2016 to 2020. Before that, he served as city manager of Coquille, Oregon for a little over four years. He also served from 2008 to 2011 as city administrator of Jerome, Idaho.
In its search for Coventry’s next town manager, Dickson said, the council was looking for someone “who would have a long-term commitment to our town, who wanted to get involved in our community and know its people, and who had the experience to manage the operations of the town in a professional, respectful manner.”
She said each candidate was questioned about topics like project management, leadership and management style, citizen relations, government transparency, economic development and relationships with the council.
“The council was impressed with Mr. Marchant’s leadership style and experience with issues that we have in our community,” Dickson said. “When Mr. Marchant was asked to give specific examples about his work, he was articulate and provided detail. That in itself was a rare attribute in some candidates.”
Marchant is a member of Rotary Club, the Association of Pennsylvania Municipal Managers and the International City/County Management Association.
The contract approved by the Town Council includes a salary of $150,000 and a start date of April 5. It still needs to be signed by both parties, David D'Agostino, an attorney for the town, said Monday night, although Marchant has agreed to the terms.
In other business, the council conducted its first reading of a resolution establishing an “administrative officer” position within the town.
Ed Warzycha, the town’s Information Technology director, has been serving as interim town manager for nearly three years amid the ongoing manager search.
The goal in creating the position is to “ensure continuity of municipal government,” Dickson said in a recent meeting, with Warzycha planning to transition into the role of administrative officer as the new manager takes the helm.
In his new role, Warzycha will work on various council-assigned projects, like training Marchant, helping to compile monthly financial reports, developing a senior tax freeze plan and working on the issues involving the sewer program and Johnson’s Pond, among other tasks. He’ll also continue to oversee the IT Department.
The council in early February approved a contract for Warzycha, but still needs to officially create the position.
Dickson added Monday that Warzycha has “performed beyond our expectations” in his capacity as interim town manager, handling town operations while also moving Coventry forward in a number of areas.