CET Recommendations – Town Administrator

This is the fourth post in a series of four posts about the report of the Community Engagement Team (CET) to the selectboard on November 20. A list of the posts in this series is at the bottom of this post. Please read the first post in this series for context and a link to the CET’s full report.

This post is about a town administrator.

The selectboard has been discussing the need for a town administrator as an addition to the town office staff. On October 24, there was a special selectboard meeting to discuss this idea, with representatives attending from Johnson and Underhill – both of which have town administrators. Several members of the public attended that meeting. The minutes of that meeting are here.

The CET concurs with the concept of adding a town administrator to town government. The CET believes that many of the issues raised by voters at town meeting and in the survey would be ameliorated by adding a town administrator.

A town administrator would be a full time person in the town office, and a second point of contact for citizens to approach with questions, suggestions or problems. A town administrator would be a resource for the selectboard, which is part time and generally not in the town office. A town administrator would be a point of coordination between the various town boards, commissions and committees. A town administrator could help with the education and communication suggestions in the previous post.

A town administrator would clearly have to work well with Town Clerk/Treasurer Mark Schilling, who is currently the main point of contact for citizens. All towns have town clerks and treasurers, who have duties defined in state law. Many towns, such as Johnson and Underhill, also have town administrators whose duties are defined by the selectboard. In Cambridge, as in most towns, the town clerk/treasurer is an elected official and does not report to the selectboard. A town administrator would be a hired employee who would report to the selectboard.

The administrative duties imposed on towns are continually increasing. For example, a considerable amount of funding is through grants, which require increasing amounts of paperwork both in applying for the grants and in administering them once received. For another example, Act 64 in 2015 (regarding water quality) requires municipalities to apply for and comply with a Municipal Roads General Permit starting in 2018. This will require considerable administrative work that did not exist before.

The following recent articles in the News & Citizen may be of interest:

Cambridge, swamped, talks about hiring help – 11/22/17

Wolcott board to consider adding town administrator – 9/28/17

In the second article, the following is attributed to the Wolcott town clerk, who is retiring soon after 30 years:

[I]t’s time to wean the [select]board off the “idea that the town clerk is their secretary.”

The CET recommends that an article be placed in the warning for town meeting regarding the addition of a town administrator. Adding a town administrator does not require voter approval, other than the usual voter approval of the budget, but the CET believes this is a major change for the town and warrants voter discussion and consideration. The CET hopes that the article will be approved.

The CET was unanimous in supporting the idea of a town administrator, but it was not unanimous in recommending a separate article in the warning. A minority of the CET felt that including the cost of a town administrator in the budget was sufficient.

I am a strong supporter of the idea of a town administrator, for all of the reasons stated above, and I support including a separate article in the warning. I welcome your views. Please feel free to post comments here. (Unless you are a member of the selectboard, in which case–per Vermont’s open meeting law–we can discuss town affairs only in properly warned public meetings.)

This is part of a series of four related blog posts:

1. Community Engagement Team Report

2. CET Recommendations – Assigned Questions

3. CET Recommendations – Town Meeting

4. CET Recommendations – Town Administrator (this post)

Please read the first post in this series for context and a link to the CET’s full report. My posts are my own views, and do not necessarily represent the views of either the CET or the selectboard.

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