Town close to hiring public works director (9/3/09)

Applicants narrowed to two finalists

Sept. 3, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

The town of Williston has winnowed three-dozen applicants down to two finalists in the search for a new public works director.

Neil Boyden announced in July that he would be stepping down after 24 years on the job. Town Manager Rick McGuire and a hiring committee have since sifted through applications, interviewed candidates and chosen the finalists.

Officials would not disclose the names of the applicants or where they live. They said releasing the names could affect the hiring process.

“We’d probably lose one or both of the (remaining) applicants if we did,” McGuire said, noting that the finalists are both currently employed as the heads of public works departments.

McGuire would not even say what state the finalists work in because that information could give away their identities.

Ken Stone, a member of the hiring committee, said disclosing the names could cause problems for the applicants.

“We don’t know that they told their employers at this point,” he said.

Williston’s public works director fills a key position with the town. The department maintains Williston’s infrastructure, including roads, sidewalks, recreation facilities and water and sewer lines.

The director is responsible for marshalling a $3.5 million annual budget and supervising 14 full-time employees as well as part-time and seasonal workers. The position pays $53,300 to $76,600.

Unsurprisingly, the town is looking for someone with management, supervisory and analytical skills. In addition, excellent interpersonal skills are considered essential because the job involves considerable public contact.

“The ability to work with a variety of individuals is an important ability for this position: from small groups to large, from developers to community groups, from town boards to businesses,” stated a “position profile” used to guide the hiring process.

A total of 36 candidates applied for the job. The hiring committee reviewed the applications and selected six candidates.

In addition to Stone, the five-member hiring committee included Selectboard Chairman Terry Macaig, Fire Chief Ken Morton, Development Review Board member Cathy O’Brien and Old Brick Church trustee Jack Price.

Each of the semifinalists was then interviewed by the committee. Stone said they were asked questions from a list that included queries about how they would handle certain situations.

The group interview was tough for candidates, he said.

“If I was on the other side of the table it might have been a little intimidating,” Stone said.

After the group interview, all but two candidates were eliminated.

“In the end, it was very obvious,” Stone said. “We all agreed on the finalists.”

McGuire said in the next couple of weeks he expects to conduct a second interview with the finalists, who will also tour Williston and meet with some town board and staff members.

McGuire said he will make the final call on who to hire. He expects to have the new employee start by the time Boyden steps down in late October.