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Southampton picks former West Springfield mayor Gibson as town administrator

  • Edward Gibson, center, sits with other finalists for the job of town administrator in Southampton, Monday night. Gibson, the former mayor of West Springfield, was the Select Board’s unanimous choice for the position, which has been filled on an interim basis for the past 12 months. GAZETTE STAFF/Caitlin Ashworth



@kate_ashworth
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

SOUTHAMPTON — Former West Springfield mayor Edward J. Gibson was chosen unanimously by the Select Board Monday night to be the new town administrator.

Board member Jim Labrie said Gibson has the skills to “hit the ground running.”

Gibson has been the town administrator of Becket since 2013. He was the first mayor of West Springfield, serving from 2000 to 2012. Gibson first applied to be Southampton’s town administrator in 2013, but withdrew his application.

Southampton has had trouble retaining administrators. The town was without a permanent executive for two years before Heather Budrewicz was hired in 2014. Budrewicz left after two years to become town administrator in Ashburnham, and former Springfield mayor Robert Markel has filled in as interim administrator since.

Gibson was one of three finalists the board interviewed Monday. The town had 12 applicants for the position, and six were interviewed by a search committee.

The other two finalists are Mari-Jon Adams, community development administrator of Greenfield, and Robert Peirent, former department of public works director of East Longmeadow.

While the Select Board said all three were strong candidates, they agreed Gibson’s experience sets him apart.

“Clearly, Ed has the most experience for the job. He’s been a mayor and he’s also been a town administrator,” board member Maureen Groden said.

While Gibson’s contract still needs to be negotiated, the salary budgeted for town administrator has significantly increased from last fiscal year — a move town officials said would make the position more competitive.

The town’s fiscal budget lists the salary as $80,000, which is about 37 percent more than the $58,262 salary earned by Budrewicz.

On Monday, board members posed hypothetical situations to the three finalists. Many situations were problems Southampton has faced, such as handling backlash from boards and committees after installing video cameras in meeting rooms.

“I would be willing to reach out to any of those boards and committees that have been showing some angst or apprehension of using the system,” Gibson said, noting that he would explain the benefits of recording, such as being more transparent.

Board member Charlie Kaniecki asked how to handle a specific budget situation — similar to an issue in the past — where there was a tight budget with a number of demands, including an increase in funding to the elementary school and a need to increase salaries of town employees to stay competitive.

Gibson said he would look into ways to bring in revenue, possibly more tax dollars, but also examine ways to be more efficient with town resources. He said combining town positions could be a way to save money.

Kaniecki also asked Gibson how he would handle a situation where the director of the Department of Public Works appeared to have a substance abuse problem and had come to work impaired.

Gibson said he’s had training on how to identify drug and alcohol abuse, through the U.S. Department of Transportation, and he would gather information from other employees who may have witnessed the director’s substance abuse habits as well as talk to the director. Depending on the situation, he said he would determine if the employee should be terminated.

The interim town administrator will work on contract negotiations with Gibson. Kaniecki said the Select Board hopes to have the permanent administrator in place within the next two months.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.