Town Manager Search Advisory Committee

TOWN MANAGER SEARCH ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Re: Report on Stakeholder Interviews April 20, 2018

To the Select Board:

In February we began our work as a seven-member advisory committee of Winchester residents charged with helping to identify the best possible candidates from which the Select Board can choose Winchester’s next Town Manager.

Our Initial Focus: Listening

Our initial focus has been to listen. We have conducted 45 individual interviews with residents, Town department heads, boards and committee chairs, community organizations, our State delegation, and the Select Board itself. We asked each person to speak about our strengths as a community, the challenges they think we face and the professional and personal capabilities, qualities and values that will help Winchester’s next Town Manager be successful.

Those we contacted were generous with their time and thoughtfulness, eager to share their experience and judgment with the Select Board as it makes this important decision. We are very grateful. These conversations left us with a strong appreciation for the ability and dedication of Winchester’s municipal and school employees, its elected representatives, and for Winchester’s rich tradition of volunteer engagement. To extend our reach beyond the individual interviews, an online survey was posted on the Town website and shared through other community websites. 92 Winchester residents responded to the survey.

We are happy to report that there is widely held appreciation for our current Town Manager and a strong feeling that he leaves the Town better than he found it. There also seems to be widespread agreement on our strengths as a community, the challenges that are ahead, and the attributes that will help the new Town Manager be successful.

Our Strengths as a Community

Those we interviewed frequently spoke about how much they value the sense of place and community that is Winchester and their appreciation for its many strengths, including: a growing and increasingly diverse population, a strong commitment to quality public school education, proximity to Boston, commuter rail service, our beautiful Town Center and residential neighborhoods, talented and dedicated municipal employees and teachers, Winchester’s tradition of careful financial management and taxpayer support, and our strong sense of community and civic engagement.

The belief is widely held that although there are challenges ahead, Winchester has the resources to address them and that we are a town where a Town Manager can grow professionally, be innovative, accomplish a great deal, and become a successful and valued member of our community.

Capabilities, Qualities and Values: What People Most Frequently Mentioned

There was a great deal of agreement among those we spoke with or who responded to the online survey about the capabilities, qualities and values needed to successfully meet the financial, social and residential development challenges Winchester will face and to draw upon our considerable strengths as a community. Here are some of the comments we heard most frequently:

  • The new Town Manager should be a good listener, open minded with an appetite for change; patient, but not afraid to make decisions. With a relatively small and capable workforce and many engaged and talented community volunteers, importance was given to developing others, delegating, but not over delegating, managing, but not micromanaging, and being able to persuade and build strong relationships with a wide range of people.
  • Respondents noted Winchester’s small commercial tax base, the confines of Proposition 2 and 1/2 and the mounting pressure on the Town’s operating budget and cash reserves. With new public employee contracts to be negotiated and several significant school and infrastructure projects still to be completed, respondents identified financial acumen, strong business judgment and being able to tell the hard truth, all as critical. Experience with operating and debt exclusion overrides, as well as, contract negotiations, health insurance cost management and bringing satisfactory closure to development projects, were often mentioned as important.
  • With our population growing, significant demographic change and residential re-development underway, and because Winchester is not exempt from economic dislocation, social isolation, overuse of opioids and a concerning level of youth stress, those we spoke with said that the new Town Manager should be able to “connect the dots” between seemingly disparate initiatives and articulate and model an inclusive, forward thinking vision for our community built on collaboration and respect, pulling all residents to the center of our civic life, leaving no one behind.

Oh yes, respondents would like our new Town Manager to be optimistic, have a sense of humor and stay with us for years to come.

We close by noting that respondents suspect our new Town Manager will find many of the same challenges in Winchester that are found in other towns. They also believe she or he will find that Winchester has the human and material resources needed for success.

We have attached a more complete listing of these challenges, capabilities, qualities and values most frequently mentioned by the many people we spoke with and heard from.

Next Steps

We know that no one possesses all these capabilities and qualities, but we also know that there are many very capable and ambitious people who will find Winchester a strong, attractive and welcoming Town to become a part of and lead. Someone who will be a good fit for our community. We hope to help you find that person.

The advertising period for the position of Winchester’s new Town Manager will end the first week of May and subject to any comments and suggestions you may have, we will use this candidate profile as we review resumes and conduct interviews. We hope to recommend a short list of finalists for your consideration before the end of June.

We are happy to receive your thoughts and comments on this candidate profile and to talk with you about our next steps.

Town Manager Search Advisory Committee

Samantha Allison
Tom Howley
Marty Jones
Jifeng Liu
Deb Melkonian
Marisa Patterson
Betsy Sands

Success profile for Town Manager matrix