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Search for town boss underway

Rollins guided shift to manager system

By Michele Morgan Bolton
Globe Correspondent / November 17, 2011

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The search is on for a new town manager in Hanover, two years after residents voted to approve a streamlined, more efficient form of government.

The town’s new boss will replace Steve Rollins, the longtime town administrator who became Hanover’s first town manager in summer 2010. Rollins, who began his service in 1987, plans to retire in June when his contract runs out.

Rollins shepherded the town’s move to centralize its sprawling town departments into a handful of functions including municipal finance, public works, community services, police, and fire.

As Hanover’s chief executive, Rollins now oversees department heads and makes the day-to-day decisions once made by selectmen.

He is a good manager who will leave his unique footprint on the town after 24 years, said Susan Setterland, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen.

“Steve has found the past year to be very exciting, challenging, and gratifying,’’ she said. “He is leaving a town where he is well liked.’’

Sixty-nine of the state’s 351 communities have adopted the town manager form of government, according to the Massachusetts Municipal Association, including Abington, Bridgewater, Cohasset, Duxbury, Foxborough, Hull, Mansfield, Middleborough, Plymouth, Norton, and Stoughton.

A changing world has caused communities like Hanover to reassess their charters and increase the duties of their administrative staff, said Pat Mikes, a spokeswoman for the government group.

“Governments have become more complicated with laws coming down from the federal and state levels to the local level,’’ Mikes said. “Members of boards of selectmen have real-world jobs and were elected to provide leadership and vision, not attend to the daily needs of their communities.’’

In Hanover, converting to the town manager system meant significant challenges, from increasing the size of the Board of Selectmen from three members to five, to reconfiguring dozens of departments under an umbrella of just five, said Setterland.

The consolidation brought together similar functions to save time and money. For example, public works now oversees parks and recreation, water, highway, public grounds, the transfer station, cemetery maintenance, ice and snow removal, street lighting, and the town’s gas pump, all of which were previously independent.

Public works chief Victor Diniak is also heading up a new system of centralized maintenance of all municipal and school facilities, said Setterland and Rollins.

“It’s a large task, but one I’m excited about and we will be an example for others,’’ Setterland said. “We are moving ahead with the organizational changes that will be historic for the town of Hanover.’’

Selectmen have agreed to allocate up to $15,000 to pay executive headhunter Richard Kobayashi of the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts Boston, who will lead the search and field candidates for the post, which will pay about $130,000.

Kobayashi, who in the past has helped communities including Chatham and Springfield find their executives, was one of two consultants under consideration for the Hanover task. The other was Alan S. Gould, vice president and operations manager for Municipal Resources Inc. of Meredith, N.H.

Kobayashi and a screening committee comprising selectmen John Barry and Joseph Salvucci and three residents - Christine Ashburn, William Cass, and former selectman David Greene - will choose three to five final candidates by about March 1, Setterland said.

That will leave plenty of time to conduct interviews and make an offer so that someone is on board by the time Rollins leaves, she said. Selectmen and screening committee members are committed to open communication, Setterland said, and will keep residents apprised.

Rollins said he is preparing for what he calls phase two of his life as he conducts the daily business of the town in anticipation of his replacement.

Besides the facts and figures, Rollins said, the new town manager must have a feeling for what’s really important: the sense of community that has made Hanover what it is.

“I hope the person that comes in cares about people and appreciates what we have here,’’ he said. “This town has done itself proud.’’

While it’s too early to start saying goodbyes, Rollins said he has been struck by the community’s compassion: “I think that’s the biggest thing I’ll take away from here.’’

On the immediate to-do list is to move forward with plans to consolidate the Center and Sylvester elementary schools, and also finish an ambitious three- to four-year road pavement program.

“And, we need to meet the medical needs of the citizens and keep looking at expanding emergency medical services,’’ he said.

Hanover officials are halfway through negotiations with town unions on new contracts, Rollins said, and annual budget talks are underway as well.

“We’ve started something special, and we’ll see what we can do to pass this legacy on,’’ he said.

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at