Hartland town manager search begins
By Curt Peterson
Following a brief public interview and an executive session on July 5, the Hartland Selectboard voted unanimously to contract with Tom Yennerell of Municipal Management Services in Springfield to assist the board in its town manager search.
David Ormiston, the previous town manager for six years, was put on paid leave in April following a kerfuffle with residents, town employees and other town officials. Martin Dole, who continues as finance director, has acted as interim town manager since Ormiston’s resignation.
Two other consultants applied for the position, but Selectman Tom Kennedy told the Mountain Times he has known Yennerell “for years” and is impressed with his 20 years’ direct experience as a town manager and interim town manager for multiple Vermont towns.
“He has already worked with the players with whom a new town manager will interact,” Kennedy said. “This includes state and federal funding sources, contractors and state agencies.”
“The other contenders offered set packages of services,” Kennedy said, “and Tom was willing to conform his services to specifically what the Select Board wanted.”
“And, his fees were the most reasonable,” Kennedy added, “although that wasn’t the most important qualification.”
Yennerell will be paid $65 per hour for defined services, with a maximum of $4,000 for the term of the contract – six months with an option to extend upon review. The town will reimburse him for advertising and background check costs. He is also acting as an independent contractor, so the town isn’t responsible for payroll taxes or benefits.
The contract charges Yennerell with helping the Select Board develop a job description and a list of desirable candidate qualifications, according to both Kennedy and Select Board chair Phil Hobbie. He will also create ads, use his established network to recruit candidates, arrange background checks and schedule interviews. Yennerell will present one or more recommended candidates for their consideration, by the end of September 2023.
A big challenge will be the housing situation in Hartland and surrounding towns. The cost of renting or purchasing real estate is high, and there are few properties or apartments. This will affect the search both geographically and financially — compensation will be influenced by cost-of-living.
The total cost of negotiating Ormiston’s resignation and now paying a search firm to help replace him, is $57,012 including benefits and taxes through September 2023, and legal fees of $755, according to Martin Dole. This expense will come out of the fiscal year 2024 budget for the town manager.
Yennerell’s fees will be spent under “advertising”, Dole said.
Some residents felt disappointed by Yennerell’s performance during the Select Board give-and-take – the consultant seemed taken off guard and gave vague answers to Select Board questions.
Kennedy explained that Yennerell came to the meeting thinking he had approval as search consultant, and came expecting to make a presentation regarding the first steps of his contract — putting together a job description and list of qualifications.
“He had no idea it was an interview,” Kennedy said. “That’s why he may have seemed nonplussed.” Asked about his own expectations, Kennedy said, “We will just have to wait and see.”