Screening Committee Ready to Roll Up Their Sleeves

March 26, 2015
Members of the City Manager Screening Committee are (left to right) Barbara Salisbury, Juan Vega and Mary Bourque. Not pictured is the fourth member, Sharon Caulfield.

Members of the City Manager Screening Committee are (left to right) Barbara Salisbury, Juan Vega and Mary Bourque. Not pictured is the fourth member, Sharon Caulfield.

The next time anyone speaks to the recently nominated members of the City Manager Screening Committee about their work on the Committee, their work will be done. After getting the okay from the City Council Monday night, three of the four members said they are ready to roll up their sleeves and begin the hard work. That hard work entails some 20 to 30 hours of meetings and sifting through resumes to choose four or five finalists out of what is believed to be about 30 candidates. That work will be done in private, however, and the Committee will not be talking publicly about their progress or the details of their internal decisions. So, what happens in the Screening Committee, stays in the Screening Committee. The essence of their work will start after the deadline for applications, which is next Tuesday, March 31. It will end when they recommend finalists to the City Council, who will be charged with making the final selection. Those picked for the Committee are School Supt. Mary Bourque, Chelsea Housing Authority Board member Barbara Salisbury, Bunker Hill Community College Chelsea Campus official Sharon Caulfield and Centro Latino’s Juan Vega. All are Chelsea residents. Three alternates include Molly Baldwin, Jim D’Amico and Ted Coates. The local Committee will be joined by former Lowell City Manager Bernie Lynch and the staff of the Collins Center – the City’s contracted search firm. Right off the bat on Monday, members of the Committee said they were grateful to have been chosen for the important task, but also said they have concerns. “I’m concerned there might not be that many or the kind of candidates we’d like to see,” said Salisbury. “I don’t know if we’ve really marketed it that well or reached out to the right places. The person we’re seeking isn’t somebody probably who is reading the want ads, but someone who is a highly sought after leader. I don’t know what we can do about that. This is a very strategic decision for Chelsea…I bought my house in 1979 here when there were still pool halls on Fourth Street…I don’t think I ever thought Chelsea could become what it is today. A lot of great things happened under the leadership of Jay Ash. We want someone who can build on that.” Vega said the importance of the decision cannot be overstated. He said that having witnessed the changes to City government in the 1990s, he realizes just what is at stake and the anxiety in the public for the possibility of slipping backward if the right leader isn’t chosen. “This is such an important and historic decision because it’s been such a long time,” he said. “At stake is the continuity of the charter change we had in 1994. It’s our task to understand the importance of that and make sure the charter prevails. I really want to thank the Council on behalf of all of us for entrusting the task to us.” Bourque said she will be looking for leaders who have a vision. She said having a charismatic person in charge would be a piece of the puzzle, but long-term systems that will stand the test of time are what she is looking for. “We really need someone who shows the kind of leadership that brings people into the conversation and builds on their strengths,” she said. “It will be a person who wants to build systems for long-term sustainability. Really, it’s not about the leader being with us forever, but the systems that person leaves behind.” Salisbury agreed, “There are problems facing many areas of the city, but we’ve made tremendous progress in those areas…It’s going to be somebody who has a shared vision that can be successful and can show what works and can use this as a model nationwide for what works. You’re also not starting from scratch.” Vega noted that the Screening Committee isn’t mandated in the charter, and there is not a requirement that the City Council create such a Committee. However, to make sure to attract the best candidates and keep the initial process anonymous, the Council chose to institute the Committee. He said that shows just how serious they are about getting the best and brightest. “This is one, if not the, most important roles of the Council – to pick a city manager,” he said. “The understanding and wisdom to delegate the process, in part, speaks to the fact that they really want to give anonymity to candidates that are applying in order to attract high-quality candidates.” The Committee will convene weekly after full applications are received on March 31. They will also engage in an off-site interview process with prospective candidates that is said to last an entire weekend

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