Sandisfield has hired Lisa Blackmer, recently elected City Council president, as its first town administrator.
SANDISFIELD, Mass. — North Adams City Councilor Lisa Blackmer is using her finance and governmental background to help out another Berkshire town.
The Sandisfield Board of Selectmen hired Blackmer to be the town's first town administrator. She began the part-time position on Dec. 3 and is using her experience in the administrative role.
"It's a small town but some of the issues are the same," Blackmer said on Tuesday. "I like the job. I like the challenge and I like the people I work with."
Blackmer is still getting acquainted with the community and researching the issues but immediately wants to find ways to increase capital repairs. She said the town does not have much of a commercial tax base and has limited state funding but has nearly 90 miles of roads that need repairs.
"I think getting funding for road repairs is going to be an issue," Blackmer said. "This is geographically the largest town in the county and there are 90 miles of roads."
Blackmer sits on the Massachusetts Municipal Association board, so advocating for more state Chapter 90 road money is already on her docket. Sandisfield also has a lot of state-owned land, so pushing for more payment in lieu of taxes from the state is also on her agenda.
But those can only be controlled so much. First thing in the new year, Blackmer is delving into setting up a budget process and gathering requests from department heads. She is also looking to revamp employee handbooks. Both of those tasks coincide with her background in human resources and finance — including her economics degree.
As she begins that process, she is keeping an eye to the future for future capital repairs on town owned building.
"They've been able to do a good job with [Police, Fire and Highway vehicles] but there are aging buildings that need to be upgraded," she said.
To do that, she says the town needs to strengthen its commercial tax base.
But while her experience in North Adams can help in some ways because of the involvement in road and parking projects, the two governmental positions are incomparable, she said. In Sandisfield, she will be handling more of the day-to-day functions that the mayor and staff handle in North Adams.
"One is an elected position and the other is a staff position," she said. "They're just very different."
But that is just the kind of day job she hoped to find. She has been involved in many aspects of government and management, so her diverse set of skills is what she thinks appealed to the Sandisfield Board of Selectmen.
"My willingness to jump in and work on stuff [is what appealed to them]," she said. "I've just been involved in so many different things."
North Adams residents shouldn't be worried about the new position though because she said the two posts in no way interfere with each other. The city isn't competing for grants with the town and her role on the council is mostly at night, while she is in Sandisfield during the days. She points to other day jobs she's worked in Lenox and how those never interfered with her City Council position.
"I've been on the council for six years and I've only missed three council meetings," she said, adding she's only missed one committee meeting.
Blackmer is the Sandisfield's first administrator after voters last year approved the position. The town previously formed a committee to review the need and voters allocated funds for the 20-hour per week position.
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