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Williamstown Town Manager Finalists Named

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The former mayor of a New York City suburb and the social services director of a California county will interview with the Select Board on Friday afternoon for the vacant town  manager position.
 
On Thursday, the Town Manager Search Committee recommended two finalists to interview for the job currently held by interim Town Manager Charlie Blanchard.
 
Starting at 1:15, the Select Board will meet both candidates in person at town hall. The board plans an event at the Log on Spring Street for community members to meet both candidates at 6 p.m. Friday; that event will include presentations by the candidates at 6:20 and 6:30.
 
On Saturday at 1:30, the Select Board will convene to discuss the candidates and potentially vote to offer the position to one of the finalists.
 
The finalists are Robert Menicocci, who has served as director of the Social Services Agency in Santa Clara County (San Jose) since 2015, and Alex Torpey, who runs a government consulting firm he founded in 2015 and whose postings include a four-year term as mayor of South Orange, N.J., a community of 17,000 in the New York metropolitan area.
 
First in the hot seat will be Menicocci, who earned his bachelor's degree at Brandeis University in Waltham and started his career with the commonwealth's Department of Transitional Assistance in 1990.
 
Menicocci left Boston to work in the Department of Social Services in the County of Santa Barbara as its fiscal manager from 2002-04. He then came back east to serve as the director of government services for an environmental and civil engineering firm in Newberry, Mass.
 
Then it was back to California to work in the Lake County Behavioral Health Department from 2010-12, back to Massachusetts to work as the deputy commissioner of management and budget of for the state's Department of Mental Health.
 
In 2014, he crossed the continent again, this time to work for the Santa Clara County, as the chief deputy director of the Social Services Agency; in 2015, he was promoted to his current position.
 
"The [Williamstown town manager] position combines my passion for public service with my extensive finance and operational experience in leading large-scale government organizations through transformative strategic initiatives to optimize organizational capacity, instill active and disciplined cultures, unlock entrenched thinking and foster an inclusive, trust-based culture," Menicocci wrote to the town in his application.
 
"I have resided in several Massachusetts communities with a town meeting form of government and have a deep appreciation for its open nature that gives all citizens a voice. My extensive work experience with the Commowealth of Massachusetts and California counties provides me with a deep understanding of goverment operations and political process."
 
Torpey's interview is set for 2:30 on Friday.
 
Like Menicocci, Torpey earned his undergraduate degree in Massachusetts, taking a bachelor's in political science and American law from Hampshire College in Amherst.
 
He currently is an adjunct professor in governance and technology at Seton Hall University, where he has taught since 2014, in addition to operating a consulting firm dedicated to helping " individuals, organizations, and communities create better outcomes by providing the strategies, tactics, and tools to radically improve goal-setting, decision-making, engagement, and implementation," according to his website.
 
Torpey was the coordinator of the Office of Emergency Management in South Orange before serving as Mayor from 2011 to 2015.
 
After supporting the election of the woman who won the next term of office there, he moved on to Levonia, N.J., (population 9,000) to serve as the borough administrator from 2017 to 2019. He served two years as the business admininistrator in Lambertville, N.J., (4,000), in 2019 and 2020, his last government position.
 
His cover letter says he took the last year and a half to "reflect on my values, goals and what I need to be happy in a workplace, including over the course of a four-month road trip this summer where I primarily camped off-grid on public land throughout the U.S., I made some decisions.
 
"One such decision was that I would be much happier spending more time in and around the nature I am passionate about," the letter continues. "In the longer term, I have decided to chart a new direction, one that I have imagined for several years. This involves moving to a more rural area, work on homesteading and sustainable living, while continuing to help communities plan their futures and implement effective programs and policies that don't just meet key community needs, but which engages people towards building healthy and sustainable civic ecosystems that can tackle any future challenges that may arise."
 
Select Board member Hugh Daley, who co-chaired the search committee, said it was a team effort to find the two finalists.
 
"The Select Board gives great thanks to the Williamstown Town Manager Search Screening Committee, Town Manager Charlie Blanchard, Town Hall staff (with special thanks to Andrew Groff, Anna Osborn, Chris Lemoine, Linda Sciarappa and interim Police Chief Mike Ziemba) for their help in this search," Daley wrote in an email announcing the finalists. "Additionally, the Select Board thanks Willinet, the Log, the Clark Art Institute, Williams College and the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce for their support."
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Williamstown Committee Begins Review of Town Charter

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's first Charter Review Committee began its work on Thursday with a reminder of what its mission is and, as importantly, what it is not.
 
"The only thing I want to make us conscious of is part of the charge says we don't want to become a discussion ground for current social issues," Select Board member Andy Hogeland told the group at its morning meeting at Town Hall. "Things may come in the door about sustainability or equity. That's not what the Select Board wants us to be looking at.
 
"We want to check over the engine of government. It will be the vehicle through which people can make changes. If those issues come up, we'll refer them to the Comprehensive Plan Committee or the DIRE Committee."
 
Actually, as the Charter Review Committee noted on Thursday, the charter is just one of the engines that drives town government. Other forces include town bylaws, votes of town meeting and, of course, Massachusetts General Law, which sometimes compels or overrides actions at the local level.
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