Jennifer Tabakin, town manager of Grreat Barrington, says she has the experience the town needs.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen interviewed three finalists for town administrator on Saturday and may make a decision as early as Wednesday.
The Selectmen convened bright and early Saturday morning to ask the candidates recommended to them by the screening committee a series of questions during hourlong interviews.
"I think all three candidates are really qualified and ... this is the most important decision the Board of Selectmen will make," Chairman John Duval said. "It is a major decision for our community."
The town has been without a permanent town administrator for more than a year. A first posting for the position failed to attract enough qualified candidates and the job was put on hold and reposted at the beginning of this year.
First up on Saturday was Great Barrington Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin who told the board she had a lot to offer with her 20 years experience in government in both Great Barrington and New York City.
"It is a beautiful town and a unique and special place ... I think I would do a good job because I have done a good job in Great Barrington," said Tabakin, who had informed her board last year that she would not seek to renew her six-year contract. "I have been very successful there ... and I am committed to public service and committed to developing my skills in public administration."
As a Pittsburgh native, Tabakin said she saw her own community change as industry left. While in Great Barrington, she has seen the importance of a vibrant downtown and would like to achieve this in Adams by advertising the town to businesses as well as working with key property owners. She said this becomes even more critical with the impending closure of the Big Y Supermarket.
"Bringing businesses here that is suitable in scale to Adams is important so it is not dominated by one industry," she said. "You need a mix of things and this is a wonderful community to live in so I think you just need to get the message out."
Tabakin said she has already built strong relationships with the state delegation and other Berkshire County leaders so she can hit the ground running. She also has relationships with leaders in surrounding communities and noted there is a balance to strike between collaborating with others while also competing with them.
Although she lives in Great Barrington, she does not see her commute as an issue. She said she plans to have a place in town to stay and that although with kids in school she does not plan to immediately uproot and move, this would be an option. Tabakin said she wants to be a part of the community and be there for the residents and the board.
"I think it is important to get out of the office and to be a visible part of the community so you can provide an opportunity for residents to ask questions and have their voice heard," she said. "People need to see that the town administrator is listening and part of the conversation."
Steve Neratko, who works in economic development for the town of Dover, Vt., said he has more than 11 years in planning, economic development and engineering, and wants to use his skills to better Adams.
"I have taken on many different roles and responsibilities in government and for the last seven years I have been at the department head level or higher," he said. "I have a lot of experience working with boards, community organizations, elected officials, developers, and really have always been focused on coming up with a plan to move forward."
Steven Neratko wants to tackle job growth and business development.
Neratko said some of the challenges he would like to tackle in Adams were sparking job growth and attracting business.
"I think it is important to have a vibrant downtown and it is a challenge in a lot of communities," he said. "I think you have to reinvent yourself and you can't have the same old retail business you have to look at other sources and experiences and bring people to the area."
As he has done in other communities, he said he plans to work actively with the business community and keep an open line of communication with them so incidents such as the closing of the Big Y doesn't blindside the town. He said he would also like to send out brochures and advertise the town to attract business.
Neratko also wants an open line of communication with the Selectmen and town departments and believes in having the most people in the room as possible. He said this comes in handy when setting goals and that, in the past, he has created as many as 10 committees to take on said goals.
He believes it is important to set clear standards for employees while leaning on them for their experience. He added that it is also important to keep track of impending retirements and believes it is important to create efficiency in government.
"I have kept an eye on the tax rate and it has been going up for quite a while and we would really have to look at our operations and how we can make them more efficient," he said. "We can work with our neighbors and look at procedures to make sure we are providing effective service for the tax dollar."
The final interview of the day was Jay Green, an attorney and former North Adams administrative officer who said he wants to come back to Northern Berkshire County and serve Adams.
"I have that fire in my belly to come back and participate and collaborate and see all of these projects through," he said. "My heart is telling me it is time to come back home ... and I want to contribute, do my part and use my skill to move this community forward."
Green said he is a volunteer with the Berkshire Scenic Railway and, as the town administrator, he would want to continue this type of collaboration with other entities and help bring a vibrancy to Adams. For example, he said the town has to balance building codes so that both public safety and accessibility for a new business comes together. He said officials really need to advertise how great the town is.
Jay Green points to his experience in North Berkshire as both an administrative officer and volunteer on the Berkshire Scenic Railway.
"I think we need to make Adams visible because there is too much good here," he said. "I don't see any barrier other than our own fear why we can't achieve here. We need to sit down with the key individuals and work towards a goal. I am not going to tell you I am going to come in here with the proverbial silver bullet but I can promise you I will be part of it."
Green said he believes in completely open communication with the Selectmen and other employees. He said he would have an open-door policy and would like to get to know all the town employees and familiarize himself with their departments as he did in North Adams. He did add that he would like to build in overlap and would pay attention to upcoming retirements so the town can continue forward when critical, experienced personnel leaves.
He already has connections with Berkshire County and state leaders. He said he never left Berkshire County and still has strong relationships in North Adams and in Pittsfield. He could connect with the larger Berkshire County community as he has done in the past and help bring Adams into the conversation.
"This community has tremendous potential — its people, its community spirit, its assets — and it is no different than Pittsfield or North Adams," he said. "We are the underdog and no one realizes that Adams is the third largest community in Berkshire County and I wish to contribute. I am not the panacea, the [Greylock] Glen will not be the panacea, the railroad is not the panacea — it all has to come together to bring us forward."
All three of the candidates felt the development of the Greylock Glen was a priority project and believed that a solid and constantly updated emergency management plan was important for preparedness for disasters.
The Selectmen anticipate making a decision Wednesday after deliberation.
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