, Derry, New Hampshire

November 14, 2013

Town Council divided on administrator search

Some want search firm to find leader, others don't

By Julie Huss

---- — DERRY — As a former town leader awaits a December court date, it’s time to begin the search for his replacement.

Town councilors want to start the process to choose Derry’s next town administrator. That may take time as the often divided group has differing opinions on how to move forward.

The town officially cut its ties with John Anderson last month in the wake of indecent exposure and lewdness charges brought against him in August.

Anderson had been on administrative leave since July 12, a day after an alleged incident at his Lane Road home involving a satellite TV salesman.

He waived his arraignment on Oct. 11 in 10th Circuit Court and remains free on $2,000 personal recognizance. A court date has been set for Dec. 13 in 10th Circuit Court.

His last official day on the job was Oct. 26.

Now, the Town Council wants to get started on the search for Anderson’s replacement.

Acting Town Manager Larry Budreau said the last four administrator searches were handled by an outside recruiting firm.

Some council members believe that is the right way to proceed, but others said the council could do a proper search and save the town some money.

Budreau said the last administrator search cost Derry $15,000.

“The search firm gathers information and compiles it into what we want,” Town Council Chairman Michael Fairbanks said. “If we do it ourselves, how would we pull it together?”

Councilor Mark Osborne said he wants to handle the search process internally and make it as public as possible.

“There are all kinds of web searches for jobs,” he said. “This is one of the things we were elected to do, and try and save the taxpayers money while looking for a town administrator. We don’t need a far-off agency telling us what we need.”

Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores said the town needs a firm to help in the search.

“They find us the best, the most qualified, the most experienced,” she said. “They give us names, then we decide who we want.”

Some said the cost for a professional search is worth it.

“We’ll do a much better job if we have a professional manager search firm help us,” Councilor Brad Benson said. “We are a council that (often) does not get along; the firm would do a good job to help us stay focused and get along.”

Benson said citizens would have a chance to give input during the process as part of a review committee. Town employees also would give opinions on what the town needs in a new leader.

Budreau said councilors first have to figure out what the qualifications would be for Anderson’s replacement before arguing over whether they need a search firm or not.

“Don’t just jump ahead yet,” he said. “The qualifications talk should come first.”

What councilors did agree on was to bring in a neutral facilitator to help get the group on task as they begin the search. That could also help with the council’s goal-setting work as they look ahead to find the perfect fit for Derry, whether it be someone more financially able to handle economic development or someone with strengths in other areas.

“This might bump up the rapidity of this process,” Budreau said. “But we could be at this for a long, long time.”

Setting council goals should come first, Benson said. That would make the search much easier.

“We haven’t done anything (on goals) in the last seven months,” he said. “We need to set goals first, then put together qualifications.”

Councilor Tom Cardon said it might be time to do something away from the norm of the past several years.

“We don’t have very good luck with town administrators, most only stayed about three years over the past 20 years,” he said. “Maybe it’s time we start something a little bit different and on our own.”