The Town of Watertown is a diverse, growing community with a strong commitment to education, green energy goals with active and engaged residents, according to the description of the town created by the Council subcommittee overseeing the search for the next Town Manager.
Tuesday night, the Ad Hoc Committee for the Town Manager Search created the community description to go into the request for proposals (RFP) going out to potential manager search consultant firms.
The meeting was the first step of many to come in the process of hiring the new Town Manager, said Town Council President Mark Sideris.
On July 15, the Council decided to have an outside firm help with the search. Sideris said this type of search is a specialized one, and he did not believe that the Town’s Personnel Department could do it on its own. He added that he wants to spend the money required to get a quality Town Manager.
“This is very important. We will spend the money to do this properly, do a background search and all that,” Sideris said. “I don’t want to go through this again two years from now.”
The consensus at the meeting was that Watertown is a mature city that is seeking an experienced Town Manager. Sideris said he expects to get a good group of applicants.
“From what I have heard from people this is a desirable community (to work in),” Sideris said.
Other parts of the search, such as the skills and background wanted in desirable candidates, will be discussed at future meetings, Sideris said. Tuesday’s meeting was focused just on crafting a request for proposal for firms to assist the Town of Watertown with the search.
The committee used the RFP created by the Town of Pembroke in its 2019 Town Manager search as the model for the one to be used by Watertown (see Pembroke’s RFP here).
One section that the Ad Hoc Committee said they wanted to change was the Overview, particularly the description of the town.
Councilor Caroline Bays said she believes the community description is a key part of the RFP.
“I looked at a lot of RFPs. There are a lot of different search firms out there and what you get depends on what you put out there,” Bays said. “One thing that is an important part of the RFP is how you describe the town. It affects what types of firms apply.”
Sideris said he thought it was important to mention that the Town Manager is leaving because he is retiring, rather than for some other reason. School Committee member David Stokes said he thought it was important to add that the Town strongly supports education.
The residents at the meeting said they don’t like when Watertown is called a suburb. Town Council Vice President Vincent Piccirilli said Watertown is sometimes referred to as an inner core city.
The Ad Hoc Committee discussed what they would like to have in the overview section of Watertown’s RFP. Eventually they came up with the following to include in the Overview section:
The City known as the Town of Watertown is seeking to recruit a Town Manager, due to the retirement of our current town manager of 29 years.
Watertown, a city established in 1630, is a diverse urban municipality of approximately 36,000 residents and has a council-manager form of government. It has a budget of approximately $160,000,000. The town has several priorities including.
1) a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
2) a commitment to achieving net zero emissions before 2050
3) a strong commitment to education
The town manager is responsible for implementing the Council’s policies, ordinances and directives, for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the town, and for appointing the heads and directors of the town’s departments as well as volunteer Boards, Commissions and Committees who take an active role in the governance of the Town. Watertown has a large number of very active and engaged residents with whom the town manager will be expected to engage and interact.
Scope of Work
The Committee spent most of its time discussing the scope of work for the search firms. Besides changing Town of Pembroke to the City Known as the Town of Watertown, and Selectmen to Town Council, they left most of the same language as used in Pembroke’s RFP.
Among the duties of the search firm will be assisting Town officials in gathering community feedback about what they want to see in the traits and management style of the new Town Manager, help create selection criteria, network and advertise to bring in a diverse pool of applicants, check the finalists’ references, and extend the Town Council’s employment offer to the chosen candidate.
Piccirilli said he thought it was important to state that the Town Manager’s job description will include what is laid out in the Town Charter, as well as the changes proposed to be approved by voters in November. A new bullet point was added saying that.
The RFP also states that the Town Council reserves the right to not hire any of the candidates presented by the search firm, or to hire someone who was not one of their candidates.
Bay said that many RFPs for search firms include language that if the first search does not produce someone who is hired, the contract also includes a second search.
The Committee and the residents at the meeting discussed how much they wanted to specify about what services and plans the search firm should have. Sideris said he wants to see what the firms come up with as part of the way to judge the applications.
Where to Advertise
The committee and audience talked about where the search firm ad should be placed. Sideris said that the Town’s Procurement Officer will be selecting places to run the ad.
Some suggested not only putting out the ads in municipal government publications and organizations, but also places such as job boards at historically black colleges and universities. Also, some suggested looking at search firms that don’t solely focus on municipal government, but on executive searches for all types of industries.
Sideris said be believes this is a specialized field.
“We are not looking for a consultant who hires CEOs, we are looking for someone who hires Town Managers,” Sideris said.
The RFP will be discussed at the next Town Council meeting (the date has not been set). Some asked if the RFP would be discussed by the Ad Hoc committee before it was approved. Sideris said he wants to get the ad out as soon as possible to start the process. The Ad Hoc Committee voted 3-0 to approve the draft and send it to the full Town Council.