County commissioners interviewed three finalists for the county manager position on Saturday morning.
Each candidate spent one hour fielding two rounds of questions on management style, experience with budgets and grants and the changing nature of Dukes County.
Aquinnah resident Russell Smith, the Vineyard legislative liaison, expressed a desire to grow the connection between the county and the towns. “I would not try to win them over with new initiatives, but would focus on what the county does well now,” he said. In his work as a civil engineer, Mr. Smith said he has worked on projects in each Island town and has gained grant writing experience. “My main asset to the county is my local knowledge of the lay of the land,” Mr. Smith said. Mr. Smith worked for the county for five years in the 1990s as a laboratory director.
Former Falmouth selectman Troy Clarkson predicted three major challenges to the job: creating additional sources of county revenue, supporting the ongoing work of the county charter study commission and managing county finances. Most recently, Mr. Clarkson worked as assistant to the mayor of Attleboro. He said he left the post because of family duties and is now writing a political column for a Falmouth newspaper. “I have a unique perspective as both a senior management official and an elected official in local government,” he said.
The interviews ended with Thomas Bernardo, former speaker of the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates. Mr. Bernardo has overseen two comprehensive charter reviews and two referendums and has experience in both county and town government. He currently works as a legislative aide to state representative Demetrius Atsalis. Though without extensive experience writing grants, Mr. Bernardo is familiar with budget writing. “Your budget is not an overwhelming budget,” he said to commissioners. “The challenges here are not insurmountable.”
Following the interviews, Tad Crawford of the study commission praised the applicants. “I was on the screening committee four years ago,” he said. “I can say for the record they are better applicants than we saw last time.” Paddy Moore, also of the committee, agreed. “I think you have candidates who could really turn around much of the dynamic of what’s been happening on this Island,” she said.
At the beginning of each interview, a list of prepared questions was distributed to commissioners with numbers one through five next to each. Commissioners assigned a numerical rank to each response. Executive assistant Jennifer Randolph presented the tabulated scores for each candidate. Mr. Smith received a total score of 296, Mr. Clarkson 266.5 and Mr. Bernardo had a score of 290.
County commissioner Leonard Jason was not present for the interviews. After commissioners decided to take over the search for county manager despite a recommendation from a search committee to readvertise, Mr. Jason said he would not participate in the process. “I don’t think we should have done what we did, so I’m not going to be a party to it,” Mr. Jason said this week.
Commissioners will meet again at 5 p.m. on Nov. 20 to discuss the search.