This is the is the third of four articles on candidates for town administrator in Lanesborough; the Board of Selectmen is interviewing eight candidates. The first article can be read here and the second one here.
Mark Shea said he is looking to move back to Massachusetts to be closer to family.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — It was at her college graduation some 20 years ago when Stacy Parsons was recruited to work in town government.
She became the conservation agent and has been involved in a number of town government functions. Now she is the executive director at Head Start and she's looking to become the town's next town administrator.
"I see myself staying in the Berkshires. I see myself still being very active in the community. I like to stay put. I don't hop around a lot." Parsons told the Board of Selectmen when asked where she saw herself in five years.
Adding, "It takes five to seven years to change a culture and make an impact. So I like to stay long-term and set long-term goals."
The Lanesborough native was educated through the town's schools and then studied environmental policy in Keene, N.H. She moved back after graduation and took a job as a substitute teacher at Lanesborough Elementary School. That led her into a preschool teaching career. But, when the town temporarily closed the preschool program, she moved on to Head Start. Throughout the last two decades, she has kept involved with municipal government, helping on a number of town projects.
"I know the town, know the people," Parsons said.
And that's something she brings to the table for the town of Lanesborough. While social media and e-mail blasts do reach a lot of people, Parsons says it is the face-to-face contact with residents that residents want out of their town administrator.
"They want to see you at events, at meetings," Parsons said. "It is a very engaged population that really wants to have a conversation."
And the same goes for working with the Board of Selectmen. She said while there are times when a text or an email suffice, there are other occasions where she'd want to have sit-down meetings with the board members to go discuss issues.
At Head Start, she manages a $5 million budget that does not all come from one source. She said she knows how to manage a complex budget consisting of different pools of money. And, because Head Start is grant funded, she has experience finding and writing grants.
"There is a lot of ongoing conversations because the forecast changes," she said.
When crafting a budget for the town, she said she'd start with a community needs assessment. Then line by line makes sure the expenses are matching up with the town's goals.
She also manages a staff of 135 and had recently gone through a full rewrite of the organization's personnel policies. With that and new job descriptions, she said she put in place strategies to make sure every staff member was on a professional development plan to fulfill the job requirements at the top level. As town manager, she'd manage staff similarly and hold regular briefings with department managers.
She said an important part of her job is determining how to allocate both funds and time because "there is never enough of either." And she said she won't back down from difficult decisions.
"We've had some very challenging things with families and children and allocating resources or finding resources," Parsons said.
She'd also like to promote the town more and take a collaborative approach to tackling issues such as the Berkshire Mall, the Police Station, infrastructure, and the tax rate.
Mark Shea grew up in Massachusetts and used to vacation in the Berkshires. But his career path has most recently led him to Castleton, Vt. He wants to come back and said if he was chosen, he'd pack a U-Haul truck immediately.
"Let me get a U-Haul. I've been planning to move back for a couple months and I'm ready," Shea said.
Shea had made most of his career working with the Department of Corrections after receiving his master's degree in public administration. From there, he went on to run a marketing business and was elected as a selectman. Eventually, he took a job as the town administrator in Readsboro, Vt, and then to become the town administrator in Castleton, just west of Rutland near the New York border.
"This is all about customer service. I think this is an essential part of the job," Shea said.
When he took the job in Castleton, the town office had been closed and government officials were working out of a trailer. The Police Station was in disrepair. He said he led the charge in crafting a master plan that bolstered the tourism economy. And the floundering tourism reversed.
"We were able to get tourists back. We were able to get rentals on the water back," Shea said.
With that, he said he was able to build a new police station and town offices without busting the budget.
"It is about economic development," he said.
He sees the same thing happening in Lanesborough. He said there is a tourism economy in the Berkshires that Lanesborough can bolster. And with the Berkshire Mall, he said there are a lot of opportunities.
In Readsboro, he said he professionalized an assessor's office that had previously required little experience.
But in order to tackle big issues, Shea said the town needs "integrity" and honesty.
"Being a part of the community, I think is an essential part," he said. "You get to see all of the people all the time and that's what I like about local government, you get to know names and get to know families. It is really rewarding."
He said when it comes to communication, one of his pet peeves is being surprised. He vowed, if chosen, to make sure the Selectmen know everything that is happening in town because he doesn't want to be the one who surprises others. He said the day after a town meeting, he'd be talking with the residents and town officials about the next town meeting so nobody is surprised when issues come to a vote.
When it comes to budgeting, he said he takes direction from the Board of Selectmen but his focus tends to be first on the tax rate and then keeping an eye on the bond rating and reserves.
"It is the biggest plan of the year. It involves goals and objectives. That's how we pull people together," he said.
The Board of Selectmen interview both Parsons and Shea for the open town administrator position on Wednesday. Paul Sieloff, the town's full-time town administrator who had his position title changed to town manager during the last contract renewal, is retiring after town meeting. He hasn't set a final date, but that June meeting is when he is looking to wrap up his term.
On Monday the Selectmen interviewed Tanya Stepasiuk and Kevin Towle for the job. Kelli Robbins and Josh Garcia were also interviewed on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Selectmen are interviewing Christine Dobbert of Florida and George Sutherland of Plainfield. The Selectmen are expected to make a decision in the coming weeks.
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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