County manager hunt may be extended
The screening committee for applicants for the job of Dukes County manager will ask the Dukes county commissioners to re-advertise the position recently vacated by Winn Davis.
Mr. Davis resigned in May and worked until August, but officially ended his job as the county's chief executive on Sept. 14. His resignation came more three and a half years after he signed a contract on Sept. 3, 2003, which paid him $79,194 annually.
Committee chairman Gregory Coogan, Oak Bluffs selectman, said the committee, which includes a selectman from each town, decided last week that the current applicants did not fulfill enough of the position requirements for education, experience, and other qualifications. The committee wants to meet with the county commissioners to review the requirements.
"We had the sense we just didn't feel it was going to happen without a broader field of candidates," Mr. Coogan said. "We're not in that much of a hurry." He added that the committee felt it would be doing a disservice to the county to go ahead with the current applicants. He did not give any information on the applicants.
A date for a joint meeting has not been set. County Commission chairman Paul Strauss said Wednesday he was inviting the screening committee to the commission's regular meeting next Wednesday at 5 pm, but does not know if all the members will be able to attend. Most of the committee members are town selectmen.
Mr. Strauss said he and other commission members are somewhat concerned about a delay in the search process, but he didn't believe it would be critical. He said that the biggest impact from a delay would be on the budget process. "We'd really like to get it done," he said.
When asked about expanding the search beyond Massachusetts, Mr. Strauss said the commission felt it was probably better to hire someone from the region with knowledge of the state and how the towns operate. Advertisements for the manager post were placed in the Martha's Vineyard Times, the Vineyard Gazette, the Cape Cod Times, and the Massachusetts Municipal Association's newsletter and web site.
Although the commission drew people from as far as California in its last search for a county manager, Mr. Strauss said the prevailing sentiment of the commissioners is that they should find someone "who knows that the Vineyard exists, and what it's about."
The committee has screened the applications of the 12 people who applied by the Aug. 15 due date. The committee's original timeline was to recommend three finalists to the county commission by Oct. 10 with a goal of selecting a candidate by mid-November, and a starting date of Jan. 1.
The advertisement said the manager would oversee the administration of a $3.9-million budget and 73 employees. It also called for experience in Massachusetts government, a bachelor's degree, five to seven years of senior management experience, preferably in government, as well as strong financial management, personnel management, and strategic planning experience.
Additionally, the ad said applicants should have the "ability to interface positively with diverse local governments and county boards, and subcommittees." The ad advised applicants of the county charter review that is currently under way.
Noreen Mavro Flanders, county treasurer and acting manager, is dealing with the administrative aspects of the applications, Mr. Strauss said. She has blocked out the names so the committee only sees numbers for each applicant, and she keeps the applications locked up, he said.
Ms. Flanders is not getting paid additional compensation for her extra duties, Mr. Strauss said. "She has done this before. It's a big help," he said.
When Mr. Davis resigned in late May he said his presence had become a distraction. His resignation was made against the backdrop of an ongoing thorough and far-ranging examination of county government by a specially created county charter study commission elected last fall.
Mr. Davis's contract provided three weeks vacation in his first two years of employment and four weeks after that. The contract also granted him three personal days a year, 12.5 holidays and unlimited sick days. Like all county employees, the county also paid 90 percent of Mr. Davis's health insurance costs.
The county charter adopted in 1994 provides for the county manager form of government. The charter delegates to the seven-member board of unpaid commissioners general legislative powers while giving the county manager full control over the county administration.
In many ways the county manager's title exceeds his actual authority over the departments and functions that fall within the county framework.
The Registry of Deeds, Sheriff's office, and office of the county treasurer, headed by elected officials, and the Martha's Vineyard Airport, under the control of the airport commission, are not under the direct control of the county manager. State and federal regulations do not allow money from the airport to be diverted to non-airport county uses. Those four departments account for approximately 78 percent of the county's fiscal year budget.
The county manager exercises direct supervisory control over his administrative assistant, the county rodent control officer, county beaches, health access, the county engineer, the veterans' agent, and a budget of less than $1 million.
The cost of the county budget is shared by Island taxpayers through the county's annual assessment, paid by the seven towns that comprise Dukes County - which includes the Elizabeth Islands (Gosnold), whose seat of government is at Cuttyhunk. In the 2007 fiscal year, the seven towns that make up the county were charged the following annual assessments: Aquinnah, $28,039; Chilmark $147,764; Edgartown, $252,801; Oak Bluffs, $117,499; Tisbury, $106,372; West Tisbury, $108,152; and Gosnold, $8,901.
In addition to Mr. Coogan, who is an Oak Bluffs selectmen, other screening committee members are Aquinnah selectman James Newman, Tisbury selectman Dennis Wortman, West Tisbury selectman Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter, Edgartown selectman Arthur Smadbeck, Shelley Carter of the Wampanoag Tribe, and Marie Allen of the NAACP.