Deerfield board meets with Senior Center director candidates

  • Former South Deerfield Congregational Church has been mentioned as a possible Senior Center site. Recorder file photo

For the Gazette
Published: 5/30/2018 10:06:40 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — The process of selecting the next director of the South County Senior Center is moving forward and there are hopes of filling that position before the end of June, if not sooner.

Three of the dozen candidates in the applicant pool were brought forward for interviews Wednesday with the oversight board, and they later met with some members of the senior center community.

The board, which was represented by Deerfield Selectman Trevor McDaniel and Whately Selectman Jonathan Edwards, questioned candidates on topics ranging from how to increase engagement from a growing senior population in the area to their vision on the future of the physical space of the senior center, with the prospects of moving from the current location still on the table.

McDaniel said the senior center is in a time of “transition,” as it continues to grow in its use by the community.

“I have a vision for a newer, bigger, more spacious area, more investment in our seniors in the near future,” McDaniel said. “Even if we ignore that whole building, I’m wondering how will you be able to work with major upheavals in the next couple of years, because we’re going to have space challenges.”

Questions, like that of McDaniel, touched on the somewhat stagnant conversations around what will happen to the South Deerfield Congregational Church.

At Deerfield’s Town Meeting, officials publicly balked at the idea that it was necessarily a good solution to try to move into the church down the street that had been gifted to the town. There are unanswered questions, likely for a future director to answer, on what the costs will be to get the old building up to code for a region’s senior center.

“I want to grow the senior center, and it’s grown a lot in the past 10 years,” Edwards said. “Whoever is in this position needs to be comfortable with the unknowns and uncertainties and the need to pivot, the need to grow and not having the current capacity to grow.”

Concurring with them during Wednesday’s interview process was Diane Cornwell, the former head of Bernardston’s senior center, who has been hired as a consultant for the hiring.

“This has to be an outside the box situation,” Cornwell said, speaking about a director’s approach to moving forward with the senior center. “Anyone coming into that has to be open to that.”

Cornwell and the two selectmen, with Sunderland’s representative unable to make the midday meeting, emphasized the importance for the director to be comfortable finding different revenue streams for the center.

“From my seat, I want to push for more funding,” McDaniel said, but acknowledged odds are a director of the senior center is in that position longer, or at least more securely, than a selectman. He said he wants to know the future leader will stand up to advocate for increases in funding.

“The director always has to remember that she is the director,” Edwards said. “People can’t decide to raise money without approval and buy-in from the director.”

Questions also geared toward the vision to bring in programming for both older seniors and for Baby Boomers, with the board articulating its desire to try to cater to both populations.

They also discussed the need for the future director to share a vision of holding onto the regional cooperation among Deerfield, Whately and Sunderland.

“It’s one of the most important things there is,” McDaniel said. “We can’t do it by ourselves anymore. It’s not sustainable anymore.”


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