WEST WARWICK — In the wake of Ernest Zmyslinski’s departure from the town manager position, the West Warwick Town Council on Tuesday voted to appoint Col. Mark Knott, the town’s police chief, to the role of acting town manager while it searches for someone to fill the position permanently.
Knott was chosen to fill in partly because of his strong leadership abilities, David Gosselin, town council president, said Wednesday.
“He’ll fulfill mostly the same role as the previous town manager,” Gosselin added, “but he will be leaning on the council a little bit more, in getting the opinion and advice of the council.”
Major Ernest Lavigne, of the West Warwick Police Department, will serve as the acting police chief until Knott returns to his role as chief.
Sworn in as West Warwick’s town manager in 2017, Zmyslinski left the position earlier this month after declining a verbal offer by the council to renew his contract on a year-to-year basis.
“At that time he disagreed with a year-to-year contract,” Gosselin said, adding that Zmyslinski would have preferred a long-term contract.
One of the reasons that the council had proposed a year-to-year contract was so that Zmyslinski’s performance could be evaluated on an annual basis, Gosselin said.
Zmyslinski had previously been working under a three-year contract, and Gosselin said he “did an amazing job” addressing the town’s finances.
“And he did offer to stay on as interim town manager,” Gosselin said, adding that the offer came too late. “The council had already decided to move forward with Col. Knott.”
The town is in the process currently of filling an open director of human resources position. That should be filled within a few weeks, Gosselin said, and once it is the town will advertise for the town manager position.
Unlike three years ago, when a hiring committee was appointed to select a new town manager, the town council will conduct the search. After the 2017 debacle around applicants’ information getting leaked, Gosselin said the council prefers this time around to handle the process itself from the get-go.
“It could be a three-month process, a six-month process,” he added. “Looking at neighboring communities, some of them it’s taken two years — hopefully it doesn’t take that long.”
A successful town manager candidate will be financially savvy, Gosselin said, and will be a leader who can tackle the town’s day-to-day operations in a timely manner while trusting the various department directors to do their jobs.
The town council unanimously approved Knott’s appointment as acting town manager during its meeting Tuesday.
“I want to thank Chief Knott for stepping up in this situation,” councilor Jason Messier said.
Councilor Maribeth Williamson echoed that, adding that she’s sure “he’ll do a terrific job.”
“I’m very excited about it,” Williamson said of Knott’s appointment. “Mark’s a West Warwick person, through and through. There’s no doubt about that.”