Brain drain goes on in municipal government

Ed Augustus left his job as city manager in Worcester on Tuesday and on Wednesday started a new job as the first-ever chancellor of Dean College in Franklin. 

Augustus’s decision to leave the job he has held for the last eight years is a high-profile example of an ongoing trend in Massachusetts municipal government – a massive exodus of top managers and administrators. 

Bernard Lynch, a principal at Community Paradigm Associates in Plymouth, who is often hired to help communities fill the vacancies, estimates nearly two-thirds of the town manager and administrator jobs in Massachusetts have turned over in the last six years. Lynch said his firm has been retained to handle 85 searches for town administrators over that time period.

“There has been an amazing level of turnover,” he said. 

Lynch recently began working with the town of Boxborough to find a new town administrator, and at a meeting of the Select Board Tuesday night he explained the challenges ahead. 

“It’s a very competitive market. It’s a seller’s market,” he said.

He said Carlisle is in the midst of its own search and Ipswich is about to launch one. Wayland, Stoughton, and Berlin are currently looking for new administrators, he said, and this fall Arlington and Middleborough are expected to begin seeking replacements for departing managers. 

Marblehead’s town administrator announced in January he was stepping down without giving any explanation. The Select Board hoped to have a replacement named by early May, but no decision has been announced yet.

Lynch said there is always some churn among town administrators, but departures have become far more commonplace during the pandemic. He said retirement is the primary driver of the high turnover.

“It’s largely generational,” he said, noting that baby boomer managers are hitting their retirement ages.

The tendency for towns losing administrators is to lure an administrator with experience away from another town, which contributes to the continuous churn. Lynch encouraged the Boxborough Select Board to look at alternative candidates—department heads from larger communities or assistants in other municipalities. 

Still, Lynch thought Boxborough might be able to convince an existing town manager to relocate. “We have some good candidates that are ready to make the move to a place like Boxborough,” he said.

BRUCE MOHL

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

East-West rail delay: At a legislative hearing, lawmakers show little urgency in creating a new authority to oversee commuter rail operations west of Worcester, which is seen as a prerequisite for launching East-West rail. One lawmaker called the issue the “elephant in the room.” There are two months left in the legislative session. Read more.

OPINION

Hynes needs arts connection: Craig Coogan, executive director of the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, said the arts should figure strongly in any plan to repurpose the Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay. Read more.

A shared social experience: Amid all the jargon-filled debate, James Aloisi urges the public not to forget the poetry of public transit. Read more.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Advocates are pushing lawmakers to adopt a plan to ease hunger among college students. (Eagle-Tribune) The Telegram & Gazette has more on the proposal. 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Former Worcester city manager Ed Augustus is named chancellor of Dean College. (Telegram & Gazette)

Barnstable County’s legislative body overrides a veto by the county commissioners, a move that pares back a proposed increase in spending for the coming fiscal year from 11 percent to 6.9 percent. (Cape Cod Times)

The Patriot Ledger looks at which nonprofits benefited from $2.8 million in federal ARPA money that Quincy distributed to nonprofits. 

GBH interviews Greg Verga, the mayor of Gloucester. 

Lynn Mayor Jared Nicholson tests positive for COVID. (Daily Item)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Legislature’s public health committee advances a bill that would remove the religious exemption option for vaccines required to attend public school. This would not affect the COVID vaccine, which is not a school requirement. (Salem News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

While term limit debates come and go in American politics, Queen Elizabeth celebrates 70 years on the throne, the longest reign of any monarch in British history. (New York Times

ELECTIONS

Senate President Karen Spilka endorses Attorney General Maura Healey for governor. (MassLive)

The Globe profiles gubernatorial candidate Sonia Chang-Diaz, who knows what it is to be the “other.”  

Republican James Amorello, 24, of Holden is challenging state Sen. Anne Gobi for her seat, arguing that he will bring a younger voice to politics. (Telegram & Gazette

Thanks to just-passed legislation, the Springfield City Council can fill a vacancy through a special election. (Western Mass Politics and Insight)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Another round of $500 stimulus payments is being sent out by the state to 300,000 low-income essential workers this week. (MassLive)

In a speech that must have sent shudders down the spine of Ernie Boch Jr. and other middlemen who hawk cars along the Automile, Ford CEO Jim Farley said the coming electric car revolution should also come with a shift to set, non-negotiated prices on vehicles sold “100 percent online” with “remote pickup and delivery.” (Detroit Free Press

EDUCATION

Some teachers and students are worried that school officials aren’t doing enough to keep them safe. (MassLive)

TRANSPORTATION

Two MBTA Green Line trains collided near Government Center station in Boston. (WCVB)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The state has agreed to refund millions of dollars in fines and fees paid by defendants whose drug convictions were overturned because they were based on testing by state lab chemists who were found to have faked drug test results. (Boston Globe)

Employees at a Chicopee McDonald’s intentionally put bacon in a Muslim family’s fish sandwich, according to a lawsuit. (Associated Press)

A Worcester police officer who admitted to snorting cocaine signs a “last chance” agreement to remain in his job. (MassLive)

A jury finds in favor of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department and a Baystate Health doctor in a lawsuit seeking to hold them responsible for the death of a female inmate’s stillborn child. (MassLive)

Facing pushback by police unions, the newly formed POST committee still has no set of standards to use to recertify police officers, a month before the first deadline for some officers to recertify. (MassLive)