Short list of county manager candidates is down to five

The search for a new county manager has narrowed. — File photo by Steve Myrick

The Dukes County commissioners are down to the short list in their search for a new county manager. A subcommittee Tuesday selected five people, four of whom are Island residents.

The new county manager will replace Russell Smith who ended his tenure on May 1. Mr. Smith resigned in February in the aftermath of a botched bidding and contract process for a Dukes County Courthouse window repair project.

The four Island finalists are Christopher Knowles, health director for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah); Jessica Burgoyne, property manager for the Morgan Woods affordable housing development in Edgartown; Martina Thornton, executive assistant to the county manager since 2008; and Jeffrey Madison, a lawyer and former Aquinnah selectman.

Katherine Rogers, a lawyer and resident of Concord, New Hampshire, also made the cut.

The five-member search committee included commissioners Carlene Gatting and Leonard Jason Jr., West Tisbury selectman and county advisory board member Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter, retired school guidance counselor Mike Joyce, a member of the county personnel board, and county treasurer and acting county manager Noreen Mavro-Flanders.

Ms. Mavro-Flanders told The Times the committee would make a final decision on the candidates when they meet Friday. “At this time it looks like all five will go to the commissioners,” she said. “We started with 19 applications, interviewed nine, and have narrowed it down to five.”

Following Mr. Smith’s resignation, the county commissioners considered reducing the job to part-time and debated the scope of the future manager’s duties. But they voted on February 29 to search for a new full-time county manager at a salary budgeted at $63,250.

In advertising the position, the county said “a bachelor’s degree and familiarity with and residence on the island are preferable. The successful candidate should have five to seven years management experience, preferably within government, as well as strong financial management, personnel management, grant writing and strategic planning experience.”

The fifth person to hold the job, Mr. Smith’s announced departure was the latest chapter in the story of the commissioners’ largely failed efforts to provide paid, professional managerial oversight to a county government that remains largely irrelevant to county taxpayers.

Until 1993, three elected paid county commissioners presided over county government affairs and departments not under the control of elected officials.

In 1994, voters created a new form of county government that delegated general legislative powers to the seven-member board of unpaid commissioners, while giving the county manager full control over the county administration.

Although the county manager serves as the administrative manager for the seven county commissioners, the actual responsibilities of the job are limited. The Martha’s Vineyard Airport, which by statute is under the control of the appointed airport commission and its professional airport manager, accounts for more than half of the county budget.

The sheriff’s office is now under state control. The registry of deeds and the office of the county treasurer are county departments headed by elected county officials who do not answer to the county manager. Each has direct control over their employees.

In terms of day-to-day supervision and responsibilities, the county manager oversees three people in three departments — his office, veterans affairs, and integrated pest management.

Correction, May 31

The print version of this story incorrectly identified Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter as a county commissioner and Mike Joyce as high school athletic director. Mr. Manter is an appointed member of the county advisory board. Mr. Joyce is a retired guidance counselor.