The full commission made the decision on Thursday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — After 21 years with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Thomas Matuszko is poised to become the commission's next executive director.
The commission chose Matuszko out of three finalists Thursday evening. The executive committee will now negotiate terms for employment with Matuszko for him to become just the third executive director since the commission was formed in 1967.
"He has a number of strengths that would serve the agency well," said BRPC Senior Planner Lauren Gaherty, who represented the staff on the search committee. "He knows each community's personality, and each of our communities has their own personality, and he can adjust to those."
Nathaniel "Nat" Karns is retiring after 23 years as executive director. Karns took over in 1994 from the organization's first executive director Karl Hekler. Karns had also endorsed Matuszko, his longtime assistant executive director, as his successor.
Matuszko has been with BRPC for nearly 21 years, first as a principal planner from 1997 until 2000 and then being promoted to assistant director in January 2001.
Matuszko earned his bachelor's degree from Syracuse (N.Y.) University with a major in sociology. He went into planning and received his master's in regional planning from the University of Massachusetts. He has been instrumental in a number of projects BRPC has taken on and has filled in in just about every planning area when there have been vacancies.
"As I've reflected back on my work at BRPC, I was reminded of the many areas where I helped build the organization. First I was involved with establishing a strong environmental program. Then I worked to establish a strong public health program, one of the few such programs in regional planning agencies across the state. I also helped establish the Community Development program which provides assistance to those less fortunate than most of us," Matuszko wrote to the commission.
"I am proud of our strong community planning program, which I currently manage, and the development of numerous master plans, in some cases where there were none previously. Under my leadership, the district local technical assistance program has provided some level of assistance to most communities in Berkshire County."
Matuszko is credited with helping to form regional public health programs, putting together a shared economic development planner for multiple Berkshire towns, and heading the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership Project. Matuszko has had his hands in just about every aspect of BRPC at one time or another.
The process led Sheffield representative Rene Wood to realize how much Matuszko actually means to the organization.
"I've come to realize that I've underappreciated Tom's contributions to this organization," Wood said.
She said she doesn't see Matuszko as simply continuing in Karns footsteps, but rather expanding the organization's role in the community.
"I don't expect to have Tom continue Nat's tenure. I expect to see new things. I expect to see more initiatives," she said. "I think he will take the commission in a more expansive role."
Beyond Matuszko's role already in the organization, Wood thought he particularly stood out in his experience working with professional staff. She said she just didn't get the feeling that the other candidates showed they could manage the type of staff at the regional planning commission.
"If the staff isn't happy or the staff isn't being encouraged to do more and go after things, I don't think this organization will succeed," Wood said.
The other finalists included Sean Maguire, the director of economic development and director of regional analytics for the Capital District Regional Planning Commission in Albany, N.Y., and Sungman Kim, a land form and planning consultant who last was employed as director of development services in South Padres Island, Texas.
"I was really impressed our regional planning commission could attract three amazing candidates," Sheila Irvin, Pittsfield's representative on the commission, said.
Irvin described Maguire as someone who could combine an analytical approach to the job with his creative side. Gaherty described him as "energetic" and one who could boost the agency's profile and reach new audiences. Irvin described Kim as driven and one who seeks to better himself. Gaherty described him as very intellectual and graceful, someone who could seriously bolster the organization's ability to work with private organizations.
"I think all three candidates have indicated they wanted to be a leader among professional peers," Gaherty said.
Berkshire Community College President Ellen Kennedy served on the search committee and particularly liked Maguire.
"I found Mr. Maguire to be personable, approachable, and a strong communicator with confidence but also conveyed earnestness. I sensed he loves his work and was excited about the possibility of bringing his knowledge and skills to the Berkshires, and, for the chance to grow professionally," Kennedy wrote in a letter to the commission.
Later adding, "he would make an excellent partner, ally, leader, and collaborator. I sense he would connect with the many stakeholders, leaders, community members, and staff that he would be interacting with on a daily basis."
For James Mullen, Kim was particularly standout. Kim's lengthy resume with strong experiences in many aspects of environment and economic development was something he particularly felt was important.
"I like Sean Maguire. I liked his youth and resume. But it was Dr. Kim that I was most impressed by," Mullen said.
Matuszko has been working with various cities and towns throughout the county during his 21 years with the organization.
But Mullen is confident that the final selection would handle the job well.
"Tom Matuszko would clearly be a great executive director. I think he could step into Nat's big shoes and fill them," Mullen said.
Chairman Kyle Hanlon, of North Adams, said he was particularly confident in Matuszko's diligence when it comes to budgeting.
Meanwhile, Tyingham Representative Sarah Hudson was impressed with "how he energizes a group."
Clarksburg representative Carl McKinney said there have been multiple times when he has disagreed with Matuszko in the past. But, "we've always got the job done."
After 21 years of commitment to the organization, McKinney said he trusts this won't be a "stepping stone" for Matuszko to move on shortly after being hired.
"My desire for the next director would be stability. My concern with the candidates is that it appears they have had a lot of positions in the last couple years and I don't want this to be a stepping stone," McKinney said.
The commission voted for Matuszko but Karns was quick to remind the commission that "I was the second choice." The commission's executive committee will now negotiate terms of the employment with the candidate.
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