Boards could vote on new municipal manager

BELLOWS FALLS — The Rockingham Select Board and the Bellows Falls Village Trustees could hire a new municipal manager Tuesday night after the search was narrowed to two finalists.

Both Susan Hammond, chairwoman of the Rockingham Select Board, and Deborah Wright, Bellows Falls Village president, were cautious the two boards would be able to reach a decision after a joint, closed-door session scheduled for Tuesday night.

It was possible one board would vote for one candidate, and the other board support the other, both women said.

The new manager will replace Shane O'Keefe, who is in his second tenure as the Rockingham-Bellows Falls manager. O'Keefe gave his resignation many months ago, and his last day is at the end of June.

But before that joint discussion and expected vote, the village trustees are expected to select a new village trustee to fill the vacancy created last month when Wright was elected village president.

Wright said three people had submitted letters of interest to serve on the village board and two are very familiar - Stefan Golec, a longtime village trustee who lost his re-election last month by two votes, and former Village President Myles Mickle, who had decided not to seek re-election. The third village trustee candidate is Christopher Glennon, a local businessman.

Golec also sits on the Rockingham Select Board, and if appointed Tuesday night to the village board would have two votes on the manager selection.

Wright said it was also possible the four current members of the village trustees would deadlock on the new appointment.

And she said the Select Board and the Village Trustees could also deadlock on the manager's selection as well.

Hammond, who was chairwoman of the search committee, said one of the two finalists was from Massachusetts, and the second person was from southern Vermont.

Hammond said the two candidates, which she said were very qualified, had different styles and approaches to governing.

One person is a traditional manager, she said, while the other is more of a "people person."

"Ideally we will have our decision tonight, but I don't know. But I'm not able to read the board. It seems very split," said Hammond Tuesday afternoon.

She said both candidates took a tour of the town and village last week and also met with town and village employees.

Hammond said the search committee had received 27 applications, and that group was narrowed down to four semi-finalists, who were all interviewed. The job will pay between $80,000 and $90,000.

Hammond said that former Municipal Manager Willis "Chip" Stearns had submitted an application, but was not selected for the final four.

Stearns is a controversial figure in Rockingham, and resigned under pressure in 2016 after it was discovered that he had given away the remains of the old Bartonsville Covered Bridge, which was destroyed during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, to his brother-in-law, and other beams to a friend.

Hammond said the decision by the search committee not to include Stearns in the final group of applicants was probably not popular with some people in town.

Since Stearns left Rockingham, he has served as interim manager for the town of Putney. He is a resident of Springfield and a native of Saxtons River.


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