Three finalists vying for the position of Tisbury town administrator pitched their qualifications before the board of selectmen Saturday during public interviews held at the Vineyard Haven Library.
The finalists, Peter Graczykowski, Sally Rizzo and John W. Grande, were chosen from a field of 38 applicants in January. The position of Tisbury town administrator has been left vacant since John Bugbee stepped down in October after nine years on the job.
"I'm looking for a stable environment where I can hang my hat for a while," said Mr. Graczykowski, who has served as city manager in East Providence, R.I. since September 2011. The city of nearly 50,000 residents has been on shaky ground in recent years, prompting a state-appointed budget commission to take control of city finances.
Mr. Graczykowski touted his accounting background in the interview, noting that he helped East Providence to overcome a multi-million deficit and end the fiscal year with a surplus.
A common theme throughout the proceedings, selectmen asked Mr. Graczykowski if he would move to the Island year round if offered the position. The previous town administrator, Mr. Bugbee, drew criticism for splitting his time between Fall River, Sandwich and Vineyard Haven.
"I know Tisbury very well; this is a place I'd choose to live," said Mr. Graczykowski. "I don't know if there's any other way you can do it, frankly."
"It's been tried," selectman Jonathan Snyder quipped.
Fellow candidate Ms. Rizzo also expressed her dedication to Martha's Vineyard. A longtime seasonal resident of the Island and current full-time resident of Newton, she said the opportunity to contribute to the Vineyard prompted her to apply for the town administrator post.
"I'm not applying for other positions. I was attracted to this job because it's on the Vineyard and in Tisbury," she said. "I saw this as an opportunity to really make a contribution to the Island."
Ms. Rizzo has worked for the state retirement board for the past four years. Prior to that she served as statewide director for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and as director of operations for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, where she said she gained experience in grant writing and procurement strategies. An eight-year tenure on the Newton school committee gave her experience with town budgets, school capital projects and union negotiations, she said.
Final candidate Mr. Grande emphasized his experience managing a small staff and a multi-million dollar budget, as well as his knowledge of wastewater issues, solar projects and storm water management strategies. Mr. Grande has served as planning board director for the city of Framingham, an elected position, for the past 15 years. Prior to that, he worked in municipal government for the towns of Gloucester, Wareham and Harwich.
He said he would use the veteran town hall staff to his advantage.
"I would want to spend the first several months introducing who I am to the community as well as the people I work with from day-to-day basis," he said. "I would depend on [the staff] for their guidance in many areas of government."
Following the interviews, the selectmen took a straw poll ranking the candidates. Mr. Grande received two votes and Mr. Graczykowski received one.
The selectmen said they will continue to deliberate at their weekly meeting on Tuesday.
"It's tough," said selectman chairman Tristan Israel. "They are all wonderful."