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Finalists named in Great Barrington town manager search

Interviews will take place at Town Hall Tuesday, March 26, and Wednesday, March 27. The public is invited. Town residents wishing to submit questions for the candidates must do so no later than Friday, March 22, at 5 p.m.

Great Barrington — The search to replace outgoing town manager Jennifer Tabakin has narrowed to three.

Great Barrington Selectboard member Kate Burke asks a question of Bernie Lynch, as selectboard members Dan Bailly and Bill Cooke look on. Photo: Terry Cowgill

The selectboard met last night (March 18) with Bernie Lynch of Community Paradigm Associates, the firm that was hired to lead the search to find a successor for Tabakin, who announced last summer that she would not seek to have her contract renewed when it expires at the end of June.

The three finalists are: Kenneth Walto, the current town manager of Dalton; Jonathan Edwards, consultant and selectman in Whately; and Mark Pruhenski, town administrator in Richmond and the former health agent in Great Barrington. A collection of their resumes and cover letters, along with summaries of their references, can be found by clicking here.

See video below of the Bernie Lynch of Community Paradigm Associates and search committee member Michael Wise, disclosing the finalists and briefing the selectmen about the next steps in the procedure: 

In addition to serving since 2001 as town manager for Dalton, which is roughly the same size as Great Barrington, Walto worked in various capacities in the economic and community development department in Pittsfield for 19 years, and started his career at the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority in 1976.

Kenneth Walto

Edwards has been on the selectboard of Whately, a small town in the Pioneer Valley, since 2004, with the last five years as chairman. Edwards, a principal of Pioneering Strategies, a consulting firm focusing on clean tech and start-ups, also has prior experience in the nonprofit and private sector.

Jonathan Edwards

Edwards also has a political resume, having recently run for state representative and lieutenant governor. He has also worked on the presidential campaign of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas for two years, and he was strategist on the congressional campaign of former Rep. John Olver. And from 1987 to 1988, Edwards was an adviser to then-Lt. Gov. Evelyn Murphy. 

The best known of the three finalists locally is Pruhenski. A Great Barrington resident, he spent 10 years heading the town’s health department, leaving in 2015 to become town administrator in Whately, where he reported to the selectboard that was chaired by Edwards. 

Mark Pruhenski

Pruhenski left that position after two years to return to the Berkshires as town administrator in Richmond. Last month, it was announced that the towns of Richmond and West Stockbridge had agreed to make Pruhenski the sole administrator for both towns.

The search for a new town manager began last October when the selectboard hired Lynch to solicit applications from qualified candidates. Lynch spent time with department heads in town government and the selectboard, held a community forum, and sought feedback on the characteristics and skills needed in the next manager. 

“In the end, we received 22 applications, with a number of very strong applications on paper,” Lynch said. “We met with the search committee, went through resumes of the individuals and we narrowed the field down to six candidates that had the necessary qualifications, and the sort of reputation of being quality candidates for the town and we proceeded to schedule interviews.”

Bernard Lynch of Community Paradigm Associates explains the search process to the Great Barrington Selectboard at a March 18 meeting. Standing behind him is search committee member Michael Wise. Seated is finance committee Michelle Loubert. Photo: Terry Cowgill

The committee eventually interviewed five because one applicant withdrew. Wise said the committee unanimously approved a motion to recommend the three finalists to the selectboard for consideration. 

Interviews will take place at Town Hall Tuesday, March 26, and Wednesday, March 27. The public is invited. On March 26, interviews of two of the candidates will be held at at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. On March 27, the third candidate will be interviewed at 6 p.m. Each 60-minute interview will be followed by a 30-minute “meet and greet.” After the final interview on March 27, the board is expected appoint a new town manager.

During interviews, each candidate will be presented with the same questions. Town residents wishing to submit questions for the candidates must do so no later than Friday, March 22, at 5 p.m. Questions must be sent via email to Lynch at blynch@communityparadigm.com. 

Click here to read the powers and responsibilities of the town manager, as enunciated in the town charter. Broadly speaking, the town manger is the chief financial officer and chief strategist. She also hires, fires, supervises and evaluates most department heads. Finally, she is the town’s agent in collective bargaining with the labor unions that represent the town’s employees. 

No mention has been made of what the salary of the new town manager would be. Originally appointed in 2013, Tabakin is making a little more than $120,000 in the last year of her contract.

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