Mark Rees in the hot seat
Peter Hechenbleikner in the hot seat
After a fair and balanced one hour public interview with each of two candidates, the Amherst Select Board delayed until December 7th choosing a temporary Town Manager to relieve current Interim Town Manager Dave Ziomek, who returns to his Assistant Town Manger position on January 31st.
The 5 member Select Board wanted more time to mull their important decision but also to allow more time for public input on which candidate is the better fit for our little college town.
Both candidates are drenched in public service experience. And both are equally white, older, and currently retired.
One key difference is Peter Hechenbleikner made it perfectly clear he does not want to become the permanent Town Manager while Mark Rees refused to rule it out.
Hechenbleikner also seemed to indicate he would work part-time, somewhere between 25-30 hours per week, while Rees stated he expected to work four to five full days per week stressing, "I would be a full-time Manager."
Both candidates pronounced the name of the town wrong on occasion but also got it right on occasion as well.
But Mark Rees seemed to have a better grasp of Amherst (with or without the H) and gave fuller more direct answers to the same questions concerning economic development, affordable housing and how to deal with, ugh, a Representative Town Meeting.
The Select Board also decided to task HR Director Deb Radway and SB member Doug Slaughter with coming up with a recommendation for a professional consulting firm to help with hiring a new permanent Town Manager.
The town received four response proposals ranging in cost from $11,000 to $18,000. Radway said she preferred two of the four: Community Paradigm, the least expensive, and MMACG, the most expensive, because they stressed the importance of public outreach in the process.
Vince O'Connor during public comment
If the Amherst Police Department were a private rather than public agency they would have grounds for a slander/defamation lawsuit against Vince O'Connor, who requested the Select Board task the temporary Town Manager with "rooting out once and for all the practice in APD of making stops of blacks and Latinos without just cause" which he branded "unjustified harassment."
Of course Mr. O'Connor offered no evidence whatsoever to back up his outlandish allegations.