Rockingham, Bellows Falls: Two identities

BELLOWS FALLS — RE:“Rockingham, BF boards vote to fire municipal manager” [Town & Village, April 24]:

This is in no way meant to respond negatively to the comments of Interim Municipal Manager Willis David “Chip” Stearns II. He certainly has a right to form his own opinions on our system and community.

However, I feel compelled to respond.

First, I would like to present some facts on his argument against working with two boards. Many school superintendents regularly deal with more than one school board. They attend and prepare for all meetings of the various boards each week.

Our own school district has boards in Athens, Rockingham, Westminster, the Bellows Falls Union High School, and the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union Board, made up of members from the individual boards.

The position requires considerable preparation and an ongoing knowledge, understanding, and awareness of the unique nature and issues facing the individual boards. The role demands due diligence to each individual board and a working knowledge of what interests all of the boards might share with one another and how they are unique.

With all due respect, the issues Mr. Stearns raises over working with two boards are commonly all part of the job performance of many school superintendents across our state and in many states across America. Candidates interested in these positions understand that is the role when applying for the jobs.

A change in our municipal structure would mean one of two options: Either the village of Bellows Falls and the town of Rockingham merge (an option that has been defeated by voters at least twice), or the Bellows Falls Village Corp. must operate with its own administrator.

My second point has to do with the history of managers.

In fact, there have been problems in the hiring process with candidates not being fully vetted with background checks. The most recent manager was voted out by both boards with a “lack of confidence.” That sounds like a problem in the hiring process to me.

We have also hired managers who did a good job and then moved on to advance their respective career opportunities.

Anyone working with individual boards in our municipality needs to clearly understand that there are two identities and two entities - one defined by charter and one not.

The problem I have seen over the years is the inability for some managers to clearly define the differences between the two and who, instead, attempt to force the combination of both.

When the two identities have been accepted and respected, despite the influence of some elected officials who have another agenda, we have seen successful managers.

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