Town Manager John Musante in happier times (2013)
Interim Town Manager Dave Ziomek (center) October, 2016
Undoubtedly the sudden shocking death of John Musante left a cavernous hole to fill in town government's top position.
And for anyone having known and worked beside him for a good number of years, I can see why they would think twice about it even if it is the 2nd highest paid position in town.
I was a bit taken aback on Monday night when Select Board Chair Alisa Brewer, her voice shaking, announced that Interim Town Manager Dave Ziomek would not be seeking the job permanently so he could return to his Assistant Town Manager/Conservation Director position by January 31, 2016.
Having just sat through a two hour heated discussion over a beer/wine permit for a local convenience store in the north end of downtown I should have been more prepared for that bombshell announcement.
Because there's a distinct connection between the two issues. The main reason Amherst Center Store was granted a controversial liquor license by a 3-2 vote is that Glenn Hamill is a mom-and-pop small business owner with a solid reputation for hands-on management.
Glenn Hamill countering NIMBY criticism at Monday night Select Board hearing
When you own a small business there are a thousand details a day to occupy your undivided attention and not enough time during a 24 hour cycle to attend to all of them. And if you're really lucky, you maybe get Christmas or Thanksgiving off for a very brief reprieve.
Amherst Center Store, one of three convenience stores owned by Glenn Hamill
Although since Mr. Hamill's new Amherst convenience store is open 24/7, probably not for him.
Running a $80+ million college town is probably almost as hard, even with the top shelf department heads currently in place.
Assistant Chiefs Don McKay, Lindsay Stromgren (ctr) and Chief Tim Nelson
A few years ago when AFD Chief Keith Hoyle retired number two in command, Assistant Chief Lindsay Stromgren, was a shoe in to replace him. Except he did not apply. As with Mr. Ziomek there's personal life beyond the job, and where the buck stops eats into that all the more.
Chief Livingstone at Select Board beer/wine permit hearing Monday night: "I have zero concerns on this particular license."
When APD Chief Charlie Scherpa retired in 2009 there was an in house competition for his replacement by two very good men, Scott Livingstone and Mike Kent. And when Mr. Kent did not get the nod he soon left the department for the Chief's job in Burlington, Mass.
So in house competition does have its draw backs.
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Especially now with the Amherst For All Charter change enthusiasts fast closing in on enough signatures to bring the idea of altering our form of government to the ballot this coming spring.
The big mistake the last Charter Commission made a decade ago was to cater to the popularity of then Town Manager Barry Del Castilho by retaining that position while replacing Select Board/Town Meeting with a (weak)Mayor and Town/City Council.
Barry Del Castilho attending John Musante's funeral service ceremony in town center
This time around it's unlikely that major mistake will be repeated, so the new Town Manager will be out of a job, or demoted. Thus it's very likely to impact the search for a new "permanent" Town Manager coming up over the next few months.
After all, who wants to apply to be captain of the good ship Titanic?
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