In a controversial move, Arlington selectmen chose longtime board member Jack Hurd to serve as interim town clerk Thursday.
The salary could be as much as $80,000 a year, a town official said.
Hurd, a selectman for 13 years, will leave his seat on the board in April, when current Town Clerk Corinne Rainville retires. Hurd will serve the remaining year of Rainville's term as town clerk before the seat will come back up for election in the spring of 2011.
Selectmen Chairman Kevin Greeley said the board appointed Hurd to the interim position with a 3-1 vote Thursday, after interviewing all five candidates for the job, including Assistant Town Clerk Stephanie Lucarelli.
Greeley said while some may believe selectmen were merely appointing a friend, he believes Hurd's experience as a former manager with Polaroid and his familiarity with the duties of the town clerk made him the top choice for the job.
"Certainly there are some that are claiming this is cronyism," Greeley said. "I truly believe he was the best candidate."
Greeley said the annual salary for the position would be between $70,000 and $80,000, though the exact amount will be negotiated with Hurd.
Hurd could not be reached for comment.
Greeley said he and fellow board members Annie LaCourt and Clarissa Rowe voted for Hurd. Hurd abstained and Selectman Diane Mahon voted for Lucarelli.
The board opted to appoint an interim town clerk rather than hold a special election, which would cost the town more than $30,000.
Mahon said she felt uncomfortable voting for Hurd because it could appear that the board was simply appointing "one of our own." She said many people approached her about the process and said appointing a fellow selectman would be cronyism.
"It certainly put everybody in an awkward position," Mahon said.
Mahon said she voted for Lucarelli, whom she believed to be the most qualified for the clerk's job.
The four selectmen left after Hurd leaves and Town Moderator John Leone must now appoint an interim selectman to fill Hurd's seat in April, Greeley said.
Greeley said the board will discuss the process with Leone at the next selectmen meeting March 8, and will likely ask candidates interested in the interim selectman's seat to submit applications by March 17. Selectmen and Leone will then interview the candidates and make the appointment.
But town officials are still looking into when an election could be held to find a permanent replacement. About two years remain in Hurd's 3-year term, and Greeley said the most likely scenario would be for the interim selectman to serve until next spring's annual town election, when voters could pick a candidate to fill the remaining time of the three-year term.
The winner of that election would then need to run for a full three-year term the following year.
Greeley said the town is also looking into whether a special election for the selectman's seat could be held along side the state election in the fall.