, Derry, New Hampshire

August 30, 2012

Search for permanent town manager underway

Hart makes more changes

By James Niedzinski

---- — LONDONDERRY — Town Council members are gearing up to review applications for the town manager’s job, but they might not be in any rush.

Councilors appear pleased with the efforts of Acting Town Manager William Hart, who also happens to be the town’s police chief.

Hart has been in the interim role since last month, working under a 120-day appointment. He has not submitted an application for the permanent post, but he has made some substantive changes.

Hart stepped in after David Caron, who served as town manager since 2003, resigned July 20. He had been on leave since mid-June for a family medical issue.

While Caron was on leave, Hart announced the town would refund more than $1.2 million in impact fees, some improperly collected, some not spent within the required six years.

Hart acted immediately, making changes to accounting and recordkeeping systems to avoid a repeat of the problem down the road.

He hasn’t stopped there.

Last month, Hart eliminated the assistant town manager position. Susan Hickey, director of finance and administration, had served in that role, too. As a result of the change, her salary was reduced from $120,231 to $109,524.

More recently, Hart moved the Building Department from under the supervision of the office of Community Development to the town manager’s office. That move, too, involved a salary reduction. Andre Garron, the town’s community development director, saw his annual pay go from $99,842 to $93,294.

“This will streamline the operation of town government overall, with both short-term and long-term benefit to Londonderry taxpayers,” Hart said in a written statement.

Town Council members appear pleased with what Hart has done in a very short time.

“I know he has more plans to come, all of which are in favor of the taxpayers,” Town Councilor Joseph Green said. “He really brings forth transparency.”

Vice Chairman Tom Dolan said government must keep working and improving, regardless of whether there is a permanent manager at the helm.

“Town business needs to move forward,” Dolan said.

Hart said he received guidance from the town charter and the Town Council, and councilors have trusted and supported his decisions.

Other town councilors, including Tom Freda, agreed, saying Hart communicates well and often.

The application deadline is Friday and, as of late last week, the town had heard from about 25 candidates.

Caron started at an annual salary of $86,500, but was earning $121,000 a year when he resigned.

Councilors expect to pay the new manager between $90,000 and $100,000, Dolan said, but added those numbers could change, based on experience and other qualifications.

Last month, Hart said he wasn’t a candidate for a permanent seat at the desk he now occupies.

“I’m a police chief,” he said in July, “and I am very happy and satisfied to serve the town in that context.”

Last week, he reiterated that he had not applied for the job, but with a little less conviction.

“At this time, I cannot speculate about the future of the position,” he said, “I am focused on current issues.”