Tanya Stepasiuk takes questions from the Board of Selectmen on Monday night. She said her experience in public policy and the law would benefit Lanesborough.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The Selectmen interviewed on Monday two of the six finalists for town administrator to replace Paul Sieloff, who plans to retire.
The first candidates interviewed were Tanya Stepasiuk and Kevin Towle
Stepasiuk, a senior government services specialist, at the University of Massachusetts' Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management.
"I love municipal government I am a municipal government dork," she said. "I have all of these varied experiences in cities and towns and I have been wanting to settle down and put all of these experiences in one place."
Stepasiuk, who currently lives in Salem, said her background is in public policy but she also has a juris doctor and previously worked as an assistant district attorney and as a litigator.
While she has not worked in public administration, through her work with the Collins Center she said she has helped cities and towns work on their charters. She has also consulted on many other projects that towns like Lanesborough have and will face.
Stepasiuk said communication is important to her and not only would she want to keep the selectmen in the loop, but the public as well.
As for management style, she said she tries to be open and transparent.
"I like to think that I am approachable and easy to talk to and would like to manage in a collegiate way but when issues come up I think it is important to be able to talk through them," she said. "To see if there are underlying issues that we can address and see what can be done to help."
Stepasiuk said although she has never built a complete budget on her own, she has worked closely with communities and has developed pieces of municipal budgets.
She added that she would be willing to meet with every department in town and see where their needs really lie to build an effective budget.
"It's never perfect we can't get everyone everything that they want but doing that walk-through and making sure each department is funded to the extent that it can be as balanced as possible is important," she said.
Stepasiuk said she is privy to many issues the town faces and said the Berkshire Mall, the Police Station, the school district, and tax rate would all be initial concerns of hers.
"It sounds like you have a whole group of issues and those are things the town together needs to solve in congruence with the select board, town manager and planners," she said. "Hopefully in cooperation."
The selectmen did talk salary and Stepasiuk said she currently makes more money than what the town is offering so would be looking at the higher salary range of $85,000. She added that she could start in a month, which would give her time to square away her projects.
Stepasiuk added that she would still see herself in town in five years.
"I am definitely at the point where I want to feel rounded where I am so would love it if this is the right match to be here in five years and have accomplished some major things with you," she said. "I want to make things better in town."
Kevin Towle, who had been aide to state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, touted his experience as a resident and with the Legislature.
Towle, who had been the late Rep. Gailanne Cariddi's legislative aide and unsuccessfully ran to fill her seat, was also interviewed Monday night.
"I think running for state representative gave me the opportunity to engage with people on a personal level to find out why issues were important to them," the Lanesborough resident said. "That is the background I bring ... I have a personal connection and understand the issues the town and county face."
Towle said it was a difficult decision to run for state representative after Cariddi passed and even though he lost, he wants to continue to help Berkshire County residents.
"It was a positive experience but was a decision that I had not anticipated that I would have to make at any point," he said. "I thought Gail was going to be with us for a long time ... but I wanted to make sure all of the work that we started for towns like Lanesborough kept moving forward."
Towle said clear communication is important to him and as he has done in the past, he would provide the selectmen with up-to-date, clear information to help them make decisions.
He added that he would like to hold community meetings if selected for the job and be as approachable as possible.
"If I were in this position I would expect people to stop me in the street, stop me in in the hall, the market and ask me questions," he said. "If they have issues, I want to hear about them."
Towle said he has built large budget before and would aim to keep taxes low while maintaining services. He added that he would even look at cutting his own salary to decrease the budget.
"I am not looking to raise taxes, but I understand that services are necessary and I would pledge to look very closely," he said. "I would argue as someone who pays taxes in town, I am a responsible steward of the taxpayers' dollars. I don't want to have my taxes increase."
Towle said he already serves on five boards in town and is up to date on many issues. He added that if selected, he would want to be in the position for the long haul.
"My wife and I made the decision to come to Lanesborough and we want to send our son through school here," he said. "I got involved when I came here because I wanted to make Lanesborough better and I am someone who would probably stay for 20 to 30 years."
Towle said he wants to look at regionalization where possible and already has connections throughout the county – connections candidates from the outside may not have.
Towle added that these connections extend to the state level and has already worked with other legislators.
"I think I bring a wide variety of resources and connections at the local level and state level," he said. "I can help solve challenges when we need grants for projects ... I have those connections."
The selectmen will interview four more candidates later this week as well as three candidates for tax collector.
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LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Police Chief Timothy Sorrell will be retiring after serving five years in the position.
Sorrell was appointed chief in 2015 after serving in the Police Department for 28 years. He started full time in Lanesborough in 1987 as a patrolman. He served as sergeant for 12 years and was a finalist for the chief's position when the town decided to hire Mark Bashara. He then served as an investigator for twelve years under Bashara before getting the spot spot upon his retirement in 2015.
When asked for comment on Sorrell's departure on Monday, the Board of Selectmen said almost in unison, "he will be missed" and they all wished him luck along with Town Manager Kelli Robbins.
The process of finding his replacement was started immediately as the board wasted no time in forming a search committee.
Last month's 26-6 win over Essex County, N.J., qualified the Berkshire County champions to face some of the top teams in the country in their age group at the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. click for more