BRPC Crafting Succession Plan For Executive Director

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Executive Director Nathaniel Karns, seen in this file photo, hasn't decided when he will retire, but he setting up a succession plan for when he does.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — BRPC Executive Director Nathaniel Karns knows a thing or two about planning.

He's been in the business for 40 years, spending the last 23 years as the executive director of Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.
Now he's planning his retirement. He's just not sure when that will be.
"I would probably choose to retire this coming fall or the first of the year. I'm not certain if that is the best time to try to attract a full slate of candidates," he said on Thursday. 
Karns hasn't made any notifications that he will be retiring, and says he still isn't sure if he's ready to pull the trigger on it soon. But he knows it is coming.
He's working with members of the commission on a succession plan to find only the third executive director the organization's had.
"We are going to start the process here shortly of putting together what we need to put in place," said the executive committee Chairman Kyle Hanlon. 
Hanlon, of North Adams, plans to reach out to other members of the commission to put together a framework for a search committee and then get everything in order for what the organization will need for advertising the position and interviewing. 
Karns has already started to get to work on it. He spoke with regional planning organizations across the state and developed a timeline and items that should be addressed during such a search. 
"In reality, you are dealing with at least a six-month process," Karns said. 
It starts when a notification of intent to retire is given and staff informed. From there, a search committee meets to review the advertisements and information packets. Then questions need to be developed for interviews.The search committee has to review each application, follow a matrix that the organization has archived, and schedule interviews. Finalists are selected and given to the executive committee, which will then perform more joint interviews. 
Once a decision is made, negotiations of terms, and then final commission approval is needed. Both the commission and the candidate will have to approve the offer. 
"Planning ahead and getting this set up right is half the work and then it is getting the work done," Karns said. 
The process of finding an executive director is rare, to say the least, for the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. Karns took over in August 1994. The commission was previously headed by its first executive director, Karl Hekler, who was hired a year after the organization's formation in 1967. 
"I guess one of the biggest questions is do you hire a consultant?" said Commissioner Roger Bolton.
Karns presented a number of other questions such as should non-commission members be part of the search committee, should any indication of salary be listed, how big should the search committee be, how many final candidates should be sent to the executive committee, and when should background checks be done.
He didn't place any specific dates on the process, posing those questions as ones that should be done before a retirement announcement is made. He also outlined about how long each step should take. He said his process "tried to lay out a methodical approach to allow enough time but not waste time."
If everything is not in place when his time to retire comes, or the commission opts to try a different time of the year to find candidates, Karns will stick around to help.
"If we got to that stage I would request that perhaps I could go to a pretty flexible but more than half-time schedule," Karns said. 
But for now, Karns doesn't have immediate plans to retire — but he is planning. 

Tags: BRPC,   retirement,   

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