Selectmen interviewed Christopher G. Senior, the 5th and final candidate for the position of Cohasset Town Manager late Wednesday afternoon. (interview follows) At the onset (at 8:30 a.m.) of Saturday’s special town meeting (November 23) selectmen will discuss their top two or three candidates and will ask them to return for a final walk around the town Tuesday, November 26. It is not known how soon after Tuesday selectmen will be able to make their decision.
But time is starting to pass the town by, as other towns are picking off our candidates. One was hired before Cohasset interviews began. According to Select Vice Chair Diane Kennedy one or two of the group of five are already finalists in other towns.
Christopher G. Senior, Deputy Town Supervisor in the Town of North Hempstead, Manhasset, NY put selectmen on the hot spot when he asked, at the conclusion of his interview Wednesday If the selectmen as a board were prepared to stand behind the person chosen as town manager. “I’m committing too, Senior said, adding that if chosen he planned to be in Cohasset for some time, perhaps for the rest of his career. “I’m not looking to come and go.”
Gaumer said the short answer for him was…”If the candidate we narrow to is qualified, and the choice is between two candidates, qualifications would win out.” (Publisher’s note: all the candidates have been qualified by the Collins Center, and so Gaumer’s answer is puzzling. Has he determined that some candidates in the pool are not qualified?)
Kennedy said: “We want success. Fred and I were on the board when we said goodbye to someone who had been in position for 6 months. It’s something I think about every single day; but we had to do what we did, the board was unanimous. We are committed to the process of hiring a town manager, whomever that is will get a unanimous support.”
Selectman Quigley said candidates seem eager and accommodating in scheduling interviews, adding she thought they would want a resolution on this sooner, rather than later.
Gaumer then said he was nervous about background checks and was not willing to cede that authority to someone else. “I make my living assessing risks,” he said.
Select Chair Fred Koed said once the committee received any information about candidates it becomes a public record. He suggested Gaumer call the Collins Center himself and see what they can tell Gaumer about background checks.
Quigley said anything Gaumer learned needed to be known by the entire board.
Kennedy wondered what kind of background checks were done beyond checking references. Credit? Criminal?
Koed said his sense was that if the Collins Center found something out, that candidate would not be in the pool.
Gaumer noted that selectmen never said what the red flags would be, adding that he felt there should be some discussion about this on the final two or three candidates. Kennedy suggested selectmen do their own background checks.
Koed said the selectmen doing their own background checks gets into employment law. He said he would run it by town counsel.
Tracey Collins of the Town Manager’s office will send out a form to all department heads who met with candidates and ask them to give selectmen a feel for what candidates they liked.
Gaumer said the form should ask department heads what struck them positively about the candidate, how they acted, something they said.
Quigley said when responses are anonymous you lose the perspective of where the person is coming from.
Finalists, if able, will get another tour of the community Tuesday and selectmen will meet Tuesday night to do whatever it is they are going to do.
Quigley said there really isn’t a lot of time for feedback.
Kennedy said she was not going to make a final decisionTuesday.
Selectman Martha Gjesteby said: “You never know.”
Kennedy said she was initially thinking about inviting finalists back the week after Thanksgiving.
Quigley said while it’s important to do outreach, she was afraid of losing all the candidates if the board delayed too long.
SELECTMEN INTERVIEW CHRISTOPHER SENIOR ________________________
Senior said he has Massachusetts roots, his mother’s family being from Stoneham.
He became a New York native after his mother visited New York and met his dad.
Senior crew up in New York and went to school in Boston. He has had a varied career, starting off as a metro west reporter in the Framingham, MA area. Next he worked for the national association of homebuilders and got to see how people planned and zoned all across the country.
Education: J.D., with distinction, Hofstra University School of Law, 1992
B.A., Economics, magna cum laude, Boston University, 1988
B.S., Journalism, magna cum laude, Boston University, 1988
He said he likes government because he likes to think he’s made a difference in peoples lives.
North Hempstead consists of 31 villages in the town and 200,000 residences.
Not all villages receive the same services. Some have water and some don’t. “It’s put a premium on inter-municipal cooperation,” he said.
Two important thing Senior implemented were a performance review of services, and project independence, a robust program that’s goal was to link seniors with services.
We developed a lot of goals and incentives with staff.”
Measurement and management go together,” Senior said.
Project Independence was kicked-off when the senior transportation program broke down. “We had our own bus system and drivers,” but it wasn’t working. So, we partnered with taxi companies. The program grew and we implemented a dental plan and everyone joined our plan to save money. Senior also created a sign shop that can makes signs inexpensively.
“We went to Washington, a lot, staying close to our representatives. There are always grant opportunities and we were able to bring millions of dollars in grants and earmarks.
Senior says his style is collaborative.
“Government is the ultimate team sport, so you build consensus where possible. So many people in your community come forth, giving of time and resources. I don’t think I’m coming in with all the answers. My job is to building, develop and get things done..
Senior said he is very tenacious and has a good, analytical mind. As a former journalist, he is a good communicator and has been involved with leadership since his early days in scouts, achieving Eagle Scout.
“You don’t get anywhere without working with people, finding resources and making best use of them.
“I’m going to get into the weeds sometimes. I sometimes live my job too much. It is a problem. Work is not everything. It’s healthy to have a balance and it’s healthy for employees to have a balance. I hold myself to high standards, but we make mistakes.
Senior said he was excited about Town Meeting.
“This is original American democracy, you’re actually working with the community and they are speaking with their voice right there. Everyone comes to the meeting with knowledge they are prepared. People who come to town meeting are fully engaged. A lot of communities outside of this area don’t do that. They vote once a year.
“Most of work done right here (in the selectmen’s office), town meeting is not meeting all the time.”
Senior said he is officer of the finance operation and he builds multiple budgets every year, considering factors and caps. He noted he had saved a lot of money by investing in technology, such as coding tax bills, which results in a 90 second transaction. “
Department heads in North Hempstead have budget compliance responsibility.
Senior utilizes a team for negotiations.