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Preventing burnout

Brattleboro Selectboard favor assistant town manager position

BRATTLEBORO—The Brattleboro Selectboard showed support for the hiring of an assistant town manager for the first time in public during a special meeting this week.

Selectboard Chair Dick DeGray said the board had discussed the issue in executive sessions dealing with personnel matters, but Monday’s meeting marked the first public discussion.

“The major concern here is burnout,” said DeGray. “If [we don’t hire an assistant], we’ll burn out one of the better town managers this town has had in many a year.”

Selectboard members Jesse Corum and Martha O’Connor joined DeGray in voicing support for funding the position, which the town has included in its organizational plans but has not funded since the current town manager, Barbara Sondag, left the assistant town manager position in 2007.

According to Sondag, the town has budgeted a tentative $60,000 for the position.

Corum said last year he did not support hiring an assistant town manager but said this week he changed his mind. In his opinion, losing a town manager from burnout would cost the town in institutional memory and direction.

O’Connor said the town manager job has changed in the past few years with the state heaping on more responsibilities and the town’s increased project load.

Selectboard members Dora Bouboulis and Daryl Pillsbury felt the town should not fund a new position when it has to consider cutting the budget in other areas and possibly raise taxes in general.

Pillsbury previously supported hiring an assistant, but said he could no longer justify the expense.

Sondag, the last person to hold the assistant town manager post, took over as an interim town manager after the departure of Jerry Remillard in 2007.

At the time, the Selectboard voted to sever Remillard’s contract following several revelations of sloppy bookkeeping and mismanagement of finances by town departments. Sondag eventually was hired as the full-time manager later that year and given the job in earnest in April 2008.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #79 (Wednesday, December 8, 2010).

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