Cohasset Selectmen impressed with Collins Recruitment Center

Richard Kobayashi, senior consultant at the Edward J. Collins Center for Public Management at UMass Boston addressed the Cohasset Board of Selectmen tonight regarding the board’s quest for a permanent town manager. Municipalities can contract with the Collins Center through an intergovernmental agreement that does not require the town to submit to procurement regulations.

He will send the board a list of services detailing the scope of the services the Collins Center could offer, if selected.  The no-bid fee for their services would be $14,000, not including costs for advertising. If selected he said the Collins Center could have candidates to be interviewed as soon as mid October.  Selectmen Steve Gaumer and Vice Chair Diane Kennedy said they might like to interview another consultant before making a decision.

Kobayashi told the board that the Collins Center was established in 2008 by the legislature to provide management service and training to municipalities. In 2008 the center became involved with municipal executive recruitment

To date, the Collins Center has been engaged in over 30 projects, 22 that have been town administrators or town managers. Kobayashi said the program run by the Collins center is a two-person operation. He assisted in the executive searches by Mary Aicardi.

Kobayashi told selectmen the method they use is tried and true. Since 2008 they have had only one occasion in which they had to re-advertise because the pool of candidates  was mediocre. “Our principal job is to make sure that at the end of the process the board has exemplary candidates.” He said he and his assistant had been quite successful, and that of the 30 executive searches, 29 people still retain their positions.

When Selectman Karen Quigley asked Kobayashi “What do you need from us?” he said  “Your appointment book.” He and his assistant will interview selectmen and department heads about the critical issues that will face the Town over the the next five years, put together a community profile and then recruit candidates in terms of what the town needs. He added that the Collins Center has a good database of talented people.

Kobayashi said he and his assistant would work with the screening committee chosen by the selectmen.  “The principal reason for choosing a screening committee is because the majority of the appointing authority cannot interview candidates in confidence, because of that, the pool shrinks, considerably.” When asked how an internal candidate might be handled, he said “We treat them the same way we treat everybody else.

“We do suggest that selectmen give the screening committee a specific, written charge.” He said the screening committee sees the names and resumes of everyone who applies. “When their work is complete, they recommended 2-5 candidates to the board.

Kobayashi said the Collins Center commissions a firm to do the final vetting of the 2-5 finalists.  They do a criminal, credit, educational and reference check. Sam Wakeman wondered if Kobayashi would object to the screening committee doing the checks.

Kobayashi said the screening committee receives all reports. “Because we’re recruiting all the time, we have a good lead of people in various stages of their careers.  We reach out to those people. We are well known nation wide and because we can maintain confidentiality, they trust us .”

Kennedy said during the last search the screening committee did not share information about candidates with selectmen.

Kobayashi suggested selectmen deputize one or two members of the board to talk with his associate and the screening committee. “This has never been an issue. We don’t check backgrounds or references until we get a release from the candidates. It doesn’t allow us to spread it around too much.”

One of the questions Kobayashi will answer for selectmen is what kind of management style would work best in town hall, and he will do that by talking to each member of the board of selectmen and seasoned leaders in the town.

After a preferred management style is determined, he and his assistant will work up a series of core questions to ask candidates. Answering Gaumer, Kobayashi said analytical methodologies are not helpful in these cases. “This is a top level management position. “Communication skills are important. Intangibles, like leadership, come in a variety of styles.” He added that temperament, skills and professional attitude were all an important part of the profile.

He said it would be very important for selectmen to visit the towns where the candidates come from and strike up thoughtful conversations with townspeople and leaders. “Citizens of town like to see public officials doing their due diligence.”

Answering Quigley, Kobayashi said the composition of the selectmen committee was very important. “Committee members should be familiar with the workings of the town. They should be people with their fingers on the pulse of the town. At least one person should be comfortable with the Human Resource experience so they can help the rest of the committee.  He added that it would be good to have people on the committee who had worked in complex organizations. “Towns are like a miniature holding company. they are not big but they are complex, and the power in a New England town revolves around someone who can mange and lead in this environment. A lot of power comes from the power (of an individual) to persuade.”

Former selectman Ted Carr wondered if a lawsuit by a former town manager asking to be reinstated in his job would deter a search for a town manager.

Kobayashi said it was a question for the town’s attorney (who has been quoted at several public meetings as saying it would not deter a search, one at which Carr was  chairman of the board of selectmen.) When Carr pressed Kobayashi again, Kobayashi said: “My observation is that usually employee claims in the end are satisfied with money.”


© Copyright 2013 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed