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Malden's Howard cites reasons for seeking Winchester post

Posted by Marcia Dick  September 30, 2011 10:04 AM

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rhJPG.JPGFour veteran municipal officials from the north of Boston area, including retiring Malden Mayor Richard C. Howard, have emerged as finalists for the position of Winchester’s town manager.

In addition to Howard, the lineup includes Saugus town manager Andrew R. Bisignani, Swampscott town administrator Andrew W. Maylor, and Belmont town administrator Thomas G. Younger.

The four finalists, recommended by a search committee from 54 original applicants, are set to be interviewed publicly by the Winchester Board of Selectmen  Wednesday. Selectmen then plan to visit the communities of the finalists, and invite the four to spend a day in Winchester.

Howard, Malden’s mayor since 1996, announced last November that he would not seek another term this fall. Prior to becoming mayor, he had a business-oriented law practice in Malden that also included serving as counsel to the Malden Housing Authority and the public library.

‘‘I’ve left the second half of my year to begin to figure out what I will be doing come January,’’ Howard said. ‘‘I had professionally looked at different options and some would lead to further involvement in government and some would maybe lead to the private sector most likely around legal work, perhaps dealing with municipalities.

‘‘When I heard about the opening in Winchester, I was particularly interested because in considering opportunities in the field of municipal management, that is one of the few towns that I think fits with the skills that I have, plus my geographic background in the north of Boston area,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s the only manager’s position I’m applying for.’’

Howard currently earns a base salary of $105,000, plus a $9,500 stipend for his role as chairman of the School Committee. In advertising its town manager’s job, Winchester listed the salary range as $130,000 to $160,000.

Robert Joy, who chairs the search committee, said he believes the field of finalists is a strong one, calling all four ‘‘eminently qualified people’’ based on their experience and advanced educational degrees.

‘‘And there is a diversity of experience,’’ he said, noting that the field includes a mayor, a town manager, and two town administrators, from varying sized communities.

Selectman Roger Berman,  the selectmen’s liaison on the search committee, is also pleased with the field of finalists.

‘‘I think as a group they offer both a practical and an intellectual experience and insight into what it takes to manage a municipality in the current economic environment we are in,’’ he said.

Winchester has been without a permanent town manager since Melvin Kleckner departed June 30, 2010, after selectmen opted not to renew his contract. Town clerk Mary Ellen Lannon  has served as acting town manager since. Kleckner is now town administrator in Brookline.

In April, selectmen offered the town manager’s post to assistant town manager Mark Twogood. But he declined the offer several days later in the wake of public criticism that the process was not done in an open way.

Lannon in August made public that she was a candidate for the full-time position. Berman said Lannon was among 10 applicants interviewed by the search committee, but was not selected as a finalist.

At least four former north of Boston mayors have become municipal managers in recent times: former Salem mayor Neil J. Harrington, now Salisbury’s town manager;  former Everett mayor David Ragucci, now town administrator in Stoneham;  former Woburn mayor John C. Curran, town manager in Billerica and previously town administrator in Maynard; and former Salem mayor Stanley J. Usovicz Jr., who served for a year as town manager in Smithfield, R.I.

Bisignani, a Nahant resident, has been Saugus’s town manager since December 2002.  Before that, he worked for Revere for 25 years  as chief financial officer, city auditor, and purchasing agent. He also chaired the Retirement Board.

‘‘My contract expires next July and I am seeking other opportunities in the public and private sector,’’ said Bisignani, who earns $120,000 a year as town manager.

Maylor has been Swampscott’s town administrator since October 2002, a position for which he earns about $133,000 a year. Since April 2010, he also has been chairman of the Essex Regional Retirement System. He previously worked for Chelsea for six years as city auditor, chief finance officer, deputy city manager, and acting manager, and for Winthrop for three years as tax collector and town accountant.

He was drawn to the Winchester job, Maylor said, because it meets his professional goals of ‘‘working in a community where there is an engaged residential population, that is committed to education and infrastructure, and concerned about open space’’ and with a charter that clearly defines the manager’s role.

Maylor said Swampscott also offers those traits, but that Winchester has a larger budget and workforce.
A Lynnfield resident, Maylor in recent years was a finalist but ultimately not selected for several town manager posts, including in Billerica, Tewksbury, and Winthrop. He applied but ultimately withdrew from contention for Winchester’s job when Kleckner was hired in 2004.

Younger has been Belmont’s town administrator since April 2005, a position for which he earns $145,000. The Belmont resident was previously town administrator in North Reading from 1995-2005, property transactions manager for the state Division of Capital Asset Management from 1986-95, town administrator in Norton from 1983-86, and town accountant/administrator for Oak Bluffs from 1981-83.

He was drawn to the Winchester job because the town has ‘‘a lot of similarities to Belmont,’’ Younger said, and because of the chance to serve as a town manager. Younger said he became familiar with carrying out the stronger role of town manager in Reading, where his position - though titled town administrator - had town manager authority.

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