The search for a new Dukes County manager, reopened this month, may take until at least February, said county commission chairman Paul Strauss, almost six months following the departure of former county manager Winn Davis in August.
Mr. Strauss said the delay would not affect the operation of the county in any critical way, but it would limit efforts to gain the confidence of town officials.
"What it won't let us do is figure out what dramatic, energetic steps to take to improve the situation," said Mr. Strauss. "At least for a while it will be kind of a holding pattern. It's a fact of life; it's reality."
In November the county commissioners decided to bypass the recommendation of their appointed search committee that they reopen the search. Instead, the county commissioners selected three finalists from a list of 12 candidates. However at a meeting on Dec. 5 none of the three candidates earned a majority among the six commissioners present resulting in the commissioners' decision to re-advertise the position.
Oak Bluffs selectman Gregory Coogan, who chaired the search committee, was reserved in commenting on the county commissioners' decision. "I feel like I've already said enough on it," he said last week. "I think the county deserves a good manager and we all hope for that. I think maybe now they see what we saw in the beginning."
Edgartown selectman Arthur Smadbeck was a member of the search committee. He is also a member of the county finance advisory board, which must approve the county budget.
Mr. Smadbeck said the commissioners need to focus on money issues, and how the charter study commission's work could affect the manager position.
"At this point in time, they should be concentrating on the budget," said Mr. Smadbeck last week. "I would be in deep conversation with the charter study commission. I would be working with them to come up with a plausible direction for the county. That might be a better approach than willy-nilly hiring somebody for an old system that quite possibly is going to be replaced."
The 2008 fiscal year (FY) county budget, which began on July 1, 2007, accounted for the time it would take to fill the vacant county manager job. That allowed for a decrease in the county manager's department from $187,062 in FY 07 to $154,005 in FY 08, easing pressure on the budget.
In the interim, county treasurer Noreen Mavro-Flanders has been serving as acting county manager assisted by Jennifer Randolph, the county manager's administrative assistant who is now on maternity leave until the end of February. A part-time temporary executive assistant was hired in November to take Ms. Randolph's place.
Mr. Strauss said that although the search committee and the county commissioners diverged, they both arrived at the same point. "We got there following a different process," he said. "We didn't close off the options. If you step back far enough, we did what we needed to do."
Not all seven county commissioners saw it that way. The decision of the commissioners to ignore the recommendation of their appointed selection committee did not sit well with commissioner Leonard Jason Jr. of Chilmark. As a result, Mr. Jason did not participate in the initial interviews of the three county selected finalists or the eventual vote.
"I objected to the action we took," Mr. Jason told The Times on Monday. "I wasn't going to be a party to it. I thought we should accept the report of the search committee. It seems like the two separate parties came to the same decision. I think we'll be fine."