PLYMOUTH – Three names of finalists for the post of chief executive were due to be presented to the select committee at its January 4 meeting, but there were only two in contention after a few last-minute withdrawals.
The names were not disclosed and the man tasked with creating a job offer for the position and reviewing subsequent applications, Bernie Lynch, Founder and CEO of Community Paradigm Associates LLC, was invited to return on Jan. 11 in hopes of finding a third qualified candidate by then.
Lynch is well versed in the skills and requirements for the job, having served as City Manager for Lowell and City Manager for Chelmsford.
City manager’s search committee chairman Leighton Price told the board that two of the three finalists have stepped down.
“We had an alternate who could move forward if we lost one of the candidates,” Price told the board, “but we still wanted three candidates.”
How it started
The vacancy comes after former chief executive Melissa Arrighi and the board agreed in August 2021 to shorten her contract by nearly a year, making the new end date next July 29. Following an executive session between Arrighi and the board on November 30, she agreed to step down from her post and instead serve the remainder of her contract as Special Assistant to the Acting City Manager. Lee Hartmann, who is also the city’s director of planning and development.
Arrighi was Managing Director since May 2012. She had previously been Deputy Managing Director since 2004.
Where he went
The job posting, which closed on Nov. 24, yielded 25 applicants
“It’s pretty average for a search like this,” Lynch said, adding that usually about a third of applicants turn out to be sufficiently qualified for further consideration.
It selected seven candidates for recommendation to the seven-member selection committee. One of the seven dropped out before the committee even started to narrow the field down to three.
Lynch said the three people who withdrew gave varying reasons for their decisions. One, he said, should have moved to the state and decided against the idea. The second felt that it was more beneficial to stay in her current position and the third cited unspecified personal reasons.
“Considering the way it worked, and after much discussion, we recommended that the city leave,” Price said. “We didn’t think there was a sufficient number of candidates to propose to the board.
The selected board members ultimately voted unanimously not to follow the committee’s recommendation after discussing whether a new job offer would result in candidates who had not already applied.
“There might be no one there,” Lynch admitted. “We had three people ready to go, now that’s not the case. The question is, do we continue this or do we take both and look at them, or do we consider completing one or two more candidates? ”
Lynch and the three on-site committee members said the employment landscape is constantly changing, with Lynch specifically noting a well-qualified candidate who learned of the advertisement too late to apply.
While Massachusetts as a whole pays better than other states, Lynch said the Southeast region is much less competitive in its pay scale. Attracting applicants from out of state, which experiences a high turnover of business leaders, is no easy task.
“From a salary point of view, you are rather low, and it is difficult to get people to necessarily take these steps. Lynch said.
Price Added Plymouth is a large city with complex issues in an area made up of small towns, so area wages do not accurately represent the town.
“The (salary) is what is paid in small towns with much less complex issues than Plymouth,” he said. “Compared to cities and other large municipalities, we are at the bottom of the salary scale. ”
The position offered $ 200,000, more or less. The leeway offered by saying “more or less” is a negotiating tool the board can use in contract negotiations, some board members said.
“I think that’s where salary comes into play in the art of negotiation,” said Betty Cavacco, vice chairman of the board of Select. “It can go up to $ 230,000 or $ 240,000, but it has to be for the right candidate. I think how this board would negotiate a final candidate is how we’re going to get to where we need to be. I do not agree to post (a new job posting) with a higher pay scale.
Where it goes
Board member Patrick Flaherty, however, noted that reassigning the position with a higher salary scale could attract a new batch of applicants who were not previously interested.
“But if the alternative is to post it again at the same rate of pay, I’d be good to look at the candidates we have now,” he said.
Concern over the impact the reassignment would have on existing candidates played a significant role in the board’s eventual decision to ask Lynch to see if he could find someone himself.
“If I applied and was told that I was a finalist and that I was going to be interviewed and that I was not, then I would be absent,” said Chairman of the Board, Richard Quintal.
Cavacco and other members agreed.
“We should interview the two that we have, and if they don’t meet the criteria of what we want for a CEO, then we go back,” Cavacco said. “It’s a little unfair that these candidates are stepping down.”
“If we repost this, those two are gone,” he said. “They should always be included.”
Bringing the discussion back to the candidates already present, Board member Harry Helms asked committee members if they thought the alternate candidate, who was approved as such in a 5-2 vote, was a suitable finalist.
“We originally voted to support three people, and it wasn’t that person,” Price said. “There were considerable disagreements with the committee on this. He was a strong person, but not as strong as the others.
He added that removing someone from the pre-finalist roster was not an option.
“There is no candidate among the candidates – whether those we interviewed or those we chose not to interview – that we wanted to submit to the selection committee,” Price said.
Whether the board is presented with two or three candidates does not mean that a new CEO would be among them.
“If we think they don’t qualify, we repost a new ad,” said Charlie Bletzer, board member.
Considering Plymouth’s complexity – as well as its size – compared to the smaller towns around it, and given the recent Town Hall revamp and overhaul, it’s difficult to attract candidates.
“Plymouth is not easy,” Cavacco said. “It really has to work here. ”
Tune in to Wicked Local Plymouth for updates to this story.
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