At 4:00 today, Wednesday, November 20, Selectmen will interview Christopher G. Senior, the 5th finalist for Cohasset Town Manager. Senior is the deputy town supervisor for the Town of North Hempstead, Manhasset, NY, where he has served since 2004.
Grady Miller was one of the top two candidates in Milton last February.
Miller has over 26 years of experience in government. He’s worked on both coasts and Arizona. He has a B.S. and Masters in Public Administration. He considers himself to be both a good manager, a diplomat and he’s had lots of experience in customer service.
He told selectmen he thought Cohasset was a small town gem offering bigger town amenities. “The town’s cultural and recreational opportunities are second to none.”
From 2010 to 2012 Miller served as Town Manager of Narragansett, R.I. One of his first assignments was to deal with a $2 million annual loss in state-shared revenue and town budget reductions. He served as finance director for six months. Also, he led a number of progressive organizational initiatives such as open government, town-wide customer service training.
When Miller learned Narragansett was not meeting its OPEB contributions, Miller through in actuaries to assist the council with options. Because Narragansett has a lot of state property in the town (2 beaches and 2 state roads), Miller had to work closely with state officials. He has testified at state hearings on numerous bills. And he worked hard to change regulations to allow sewers in “Jerusalem,” a barrier beach. Residents had to agree to not overbuild the area.
He worked hard to bring Narragansett’s Human Resource up to date.
Miller said Narragansett’s council had foresight to create an economic development plan in late 2009 and it was one of the first communities to do so. We addressed three areas of the town, the fishing corridor, the north and Narragansett Pier. We ended up in the public engagement process. Through a grant from the State Economic Development Foundation we hired a facilitator and ultimately we hired a coordinator to help develop the plan. The stakeholders were business owners, commission members, and residents. “We had a lot of participation and some squeaky wheels
Miller said it was important for the town manager to have an open door policy. I was accessible to public. I met with residents and tried to assist them with their problems. I did the same thing with collective bargaining heads. If they had an issue, they would see me before they filed a grievance. In Narragansett only two grievances were appealed beyond me.
He said he met with department heads weekly and worked collectively tto resolve issues and make clear the priorities of the council. Miller also updated the website, making it much more friendly, and published a community newsletter. When surveyed, 75 percent said they got their information about government through this vehicle. also, Miller would meet with newspaper editors in a round-table discussion and answer their questions.
Selectmen were very interested in the website and asked Miller how he reformatted it. Miller said he changed the format to something more universal and published not just meeting agendas, but all staff reports. the public had assess to everything the council had. And, residents could submit concerns and complaints. the company hired to produce the website was CivicPlus (www.civicplus.com), a boutique company that specializes in municipal websites.
Miller said one of his weaknesses was public speaking and is inability to say no.
In Narragansett Miller changed the old line-item budget to a performance based budget. It’s outcome based. You look at what you are accomplishing with your inputs.
Selectman Steve Gaumer asked for the notion behind performance based budget..
“Programs must be right on the mark, the program should not be paying for something else.”
In Arizona, the town did citizen satisfaction surveys every three years. In Peoria that satisfaction kept going up and we were able to measure our effectiveness. It was through his survey that we discovered we had issues with streets. People who lived in newer areas were getting traffic via leap frog development.
Diane Kennedy, vice chair, asked Miller to comment on how a service might be measured and improved. .
Miller said 85 services were shared between Narragansett and Kingston.
Kingston’s manager has been in the job for 35 years and he had memo of all shared services. “The ability to raise revenues is very limited. We need to come with more creative service delivery, a better mousetrap.”
He said he noticed that the water department had privatized its utility function and said that was a good thing, as was the regional dispatch center.
I think fees good, fair and equitable. People are paying directly for their services. In Arizona we did cost studies. The council would say let’s not go for 100% recovery for senior and youth programs..
Miller said he had a collective bargaining team. The police chief or his deputy would do budget calculations and work on our interests. It’s important to have people involved, if not at the table, behind the scenes.
In Narragansett one of the council members sat in on negotiations. In Arizona the HR director and labor relations person participated. We didn’t focus on economics, we focused on mutual interests. One of those interests was a retirement medical savings account. the money goes in tax free and comes out tax free as long as its for medical services. Everyone in the group has to be in the same dollar amount and the employee ha total control once they left employment.
Select Chair Fred Koed asked Miller if he had any questions for the board.
Miller asked selectmen what they were looking for.
“Can you do magic?” Gaumer asked.
Miller laughed and said one city manager described the town manager as being a zookeeper.
Miller said he had a good parting in Narragansett and felt he could do a good job here. He sad communications may be a problem in the town, but the big buzz word in today’s world is citizen engagement, and it’s happening right here. It’s doing and accomplishing what’s it’s intended to do.
Kennedy said: “We need a zookeeper, a little bit magician.”
“People who spend the time to serve are all trying to do the same thing. This kind of stuff takes time. I don’t think the own manager is a miracle worker, but he can improve communications and create trust,” Miller said.
“From your lips to God’s ears,” Selectman Karen Quigley said.
William DiLibero was town administrator of Charlestown, Rhode Island from 2009 to 2012. From 2012 to present he has served as a consultant and legal advisor to towns and boards needing criminal and civil litigation defense.
DiLibero is well acquainted with weather-related emergencies. He has a law degree from New England School of Law and a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning. He has developed protocols for bidding method for closing out landfills. As a manager he has a hands off/hands on approach. He allows department heads to use their leadership skills and run their programs – a customer service approach.
His first job as a public administrator in 1979 was when the states used to do energy audits. He said his strength is the ability to build a team. A weakness might be his failure to advocate for himself.
As a new town manager in Hopkinton, Rhode Island, DiLibero had to deal with a tax assessor who had not completed a full re-evaluation. She said she was not happy with the revaluation company and she was changing a lot of the data.
“I told her her the the process is, the ‘rev’ company does set the value, but the property owner can challenge the bills. I said you have until Friday to get the bills out, I have to set a tax rate.” The tax assessor complied and there were very few challenges.”
How did DiLibero handle an entity intruding upon his authority?
DiLibero said a former counsel president who had not been re-elected became a very large presence in town hall. DiLibero invited him to have a talk but he continued to be very abrasive. I told him either we have a conversation or I invite you to leave. He left.
DiLibero said he had handled six municipal budgets and he never budgeted more than state aid. He advised selectmen to never to never stop growing the budget. “You can’t get stuck.”
“The first thing we do is the capital budget and then work from the prior year,” DiLibero said.
“In Charlestown a member of council served on finance committee.There was no Christmas in July. I had oversite of the budget, and I put a freeze on spending. Excess money went back into the general fund. In Hopkinton the school budget was 80¢ cents per dollar and DiLibero said the town had a hard time complying with that. In Charlestown, R.I. the school budget was in the low to mid 60¢ per dollar.
According to DiLibero, recreation and elder services are two biggest demands on the budget. He told the story of a privately owned driving range that the town wanted to purchase. The state gave the town the money but said it wanted more of a park. The town took the money but continued running the driving range, operating it in a deficit.
Ultimately, DiLibero shut the driving range down and went out to bid to create a walking trail with a picnic area, fruit trees and blueberry blushes. DiLibero said he resolved the situation with minor conflict.
In Charlestown, DiLibero wore many boots. He rewrote the employee manual with counsel. He said he was not certain he would advise dedicating a full time person to HR for the town. But he advised selectmen that all HR issues needed to be addressed in a timely manner.
DiLibero, in spite of his law degree, utilized professional staff in labor negotiations. ”When I‘m a town manager I don’ t practice law. I went to law school as a planner so I could do a better job as a planner, and town administrator.”
DiLibero said: “Taxes can be deducted, fees can’t.” In Massachusetts it’s more difficult to have impact fees. You want to charge fees to people using a service not everyone else is using.