23 Aug 2014
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Wenham to Consider Job Description, Pay in Administrator Search

Wenham Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren was offered the Marblehead Town Administrator job last week and Wenham town leaders are looking ahead at what it will take to fill the position.

Wenham to Consider Job Description, Pay in Administrator Search

The search for a new Wenham town administrator will also include a look at the job description and salary, according to the chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

On Wednesday night, Wenham Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren was by the Marblehead Board of Selectmen in a 3-0 vote.

Chelgren will still need to negotiate a contract before he officially takes the job.

Chelgren has not submitted his resignation in Wenham as of late Thursday afternoon, Wenham Board of Selectmen Chairman Molly Martins said.

Regardless, Martins said she expects to receive it soon.

“I expect that it will happen in short order,” Martins said.

A search committee would then be formed to review candidates to become the next Wenham Town Administrator.

“Prior to that the Selectmen have to have some conversations,” Martins said.

The timing on the search will depend on Chelgren’s resignation date, Martins said. Chelgren is set to replace a longtime Marblehead Town Administrator Tony Sasso, who is scheduled to retire in May.

Some considerations for Wenham leaders will be budget season – Annual Town Meeting is the first Saturday of May – plus a look at other area towns that may be undertaking a similar search at the same time.

“There’s a lot to sort through,” Martins said.

Martins said it remains to be determined whether the town will use a consultant to assist in the search.

The salary for Chelgren’s successor will be largely determined by their experience and market pay, she said.

A found that Wenham town administrator’s annual salary - $93,456 - was $14,600 less than the 10 towns used in the comparison study.

“We know from the salary survey the position is below market,” Martins said.

In that study, Wenham was compared to towns ranging in size from Essex and West Newbury to Weston and Carlisle.

The study also included Ipswich, which now has an interim Town Manager and will soon be looking for someone to fill the position permanently. Ipswich pays $120,199.

And while Wenham has a smaller population and budget than some of the towns in the study, Martins said that the job is largely the same with equal responsibilities and demands.

Marblehead, for example, has more than four times the population of Wenham.

Martins said as the search begins she also wants to make sure that the reporting structure for the town administrator position is clear - both who the town administrator reports to and who reports to the town administrator.

Martins said it is also good that the town’s Government Study Committee is currently meeting on a regular basis.

“Their work is very timely,” Martins said. “They may feel a little bit of pressure to accelerate parts of their work.”

But most of the changes that would be proposed by the committee would need Town Meting approval.

Martins said as the town transition to a new town administrator that it is important that the town operates under the “hit by a bus” mentality – the work done by an employee is so well documented that someone else could come in after an employee is "hit by a bus" and pick up where things left off.

In terms of Chelgren, his top accomplishment, in Martins’ opinion, was “embracing and being comfortable with collaboration and regionalization.”

Because Wenham lacks the economy of scale, it has been an important “to reach out beyond our boundaries and borders.”

Recently, that has include hiring a shared director for the Council of Aging with Hamilton. The two towns also pursued a combined finance department late last year but the idea was dropped and was never implemented. Both towns have also studied the possible merger of the police departments in both towns.

“In every case it has not always played out,” Martins said.

Chelgren has backed a plan to combine the grounds maintenance functions for the two towns that was implemented and has backed an idea for a similar move for buildings maintenance for the two towns and school district.

He also supported Wenham’s move to the Essex County Regional Emergency Communication Center, which is still under construction, Martins said.

He also embraced the , which opened just as he came on the job a decade ago, plus the Hamilton-Wenham Recreation Department.

“To me it has been very exciting,” Martins said.

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