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After altering education requirements, Southampton Selectmen ready to post Town Administrator’s job

— A change in required qualifications for applicants for the post of town administrator means the interim administrator who has held the post for more than a year can now apply.

Selectmen changed the level of education required, making a four-year degree in public administration or a related field a preferred qualification, instead of a requirement, to apply for the town administrator’s position when they approved a job description last week.

“I think degrees are overrated, myself,” said Board Vice Chairman David McDougall at a Dec. 4 board meeting. “You interview candidates and if they don’t have a degree, but look, they have all these qualifications, you don’t want to exclude them.”

Interim Town Administrator Regina Shea-Sullivan has held the post since August 2011 after former administrator Diana Schindler resigned in July that year. Shea-Sullivan, who was assistant administrator under Schindler, has said she is interested in the permanent post. The new job description will be advertised soon, officials said.

Select Board Chairman Michael Phelan, Jacqueline Sears, and McDougall voted in favor of the change, Ann Roy abstained and Edward Cauley voted against the change.

“I believe we need a degree. I feel that education at this point is a big factor in making sure we have the best possible candidate,” Cauley said at the meeting. “We need to have a level of expertise to carry this position to the next level.”

The job description also requires three to five years of experience in the field of public administration “or an equivalent combination of education and experience.”

Complicating matters was confusion over whether the board had already voted at their April 10 meeting to change the educational requirement. The Gazette’s review of the video of the April meeting showed there was no vote.

The board discussed the change at that meeting, but no motion to amend the job description was ever made. The board authorized then board member Jess Dods to review the entire job description and suggest changes.

Cauley said he was “a little dumbfounded” to find out after last week’s meeting that the draft of the job description the board was considering noted a vote had been taken at the April 10 meeting, although no vote was taken. “I wish I had known that,” he said, although he added he does not think it would have changed the board’s Dec. 4 decision.

Attempts to obtain the April 10 meeting minutes were unsuccessful.

The board this month also set a salary range for the town administrator position at $54,000 to $62,000. Schindler’s salary when she left the job was $66,756.

As interim administrator, Shea-Sullivan is earning $45,000 annually.

A long time coming

Cauley, though not completely satisfied with the job description, said he is glad the position is being advertised since it has been vacant for nearly a year and five months.

“This town needs good leadership and administration,” he said.

The Finance Committee and the personnel board both pushed the Select Board over the last few months to post the position. As interim administrator, Shea-Sullivan must be reappointed by selectmen every 12 weeks, and each time, the Finance Committee and personnel board have voted to recommend the appointment. But on Nov. 14, the personnel board refused to recommend it, instead imploring Selectmen again to review and post the job description, said Cauley, also the chair of the personnel board. Cauley is also the town’s highway superintendent.

Selectmen delayed the discussion until Dec. 4 because they wanted to have all members present, he said.

Shea-Sullivan, of Chicopee, said in a past interview that she feels that her time working as administrative assistant to the Select Board since she was hired in 2006 has prepared her to take on the post.

She declined to comment on how the change in education requirement could affect her candidacy. “It’s what the board wishes,” she said of their decision.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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