The Town Council is divided on who to hire as Newington’s new chief employee.
The Republican majority is leaning towards promoting interim Town Manager and longtime Town Clerk Tanya Lane for the permanent position, vacated by John Salomone late last year. Democrats, on the other hand, would prefer to conduct a full-scale search for the new manager.
At their last meeting the council heard from consultant Randi Frank, who was hired to collect input on ideal qualifications from the public and town employees over the last few months.
“Some people thought the town should do internal recruitment; others thought there was a need for full national search,” Frank told councilors.
According to the report she compiled, people are looking for a variety of things from the new manager, including experience with finances and economic development, effective communication skills with the public and other town departments and a strong understanding of issues affecting Newington specifically.
Lane, who was present at the meeting, was praised by much of the body for possessing these qualifications and doing double duty as both clerk and manager since Salomone’s departure.
“I think you’ve done an absolutely fantastic job; I really think you should get it,” Mayor Roy Zartarian told her. “You’ve come through a really difficult budget season and we’re facing tough fiscal times now and ahead.”
A council sub-committee led by Republican Maureen Klett recommended the town conduct a full search, if but for any reason to confirm publicly that Lane is the best candidate for the job.
“The consultant told us that even if you have an inside candidate you may be leaning towards it’s in their best interest to go through the process, so townspeople can feel comfortable knowing that candidate can and should rise to the top,” Klett explained.
Minority Leader Carol Anest agreed, while acknowledging Lane’s good work.
“Tanya, I think you’re doing a great job but I think we owe it to the town to move forward with a full search,” she said. “Maybe we do have the best candidate but in the long run it would serve us best and serve the candidate best.”
Republicans Dave Nagel and Majority Leader Beth DelBuono, who were also both on the committee, said after further consideration they were opposed to a full search, which would cost the town $15,000.
“I feel we have an internal candidate that has proven to be absolutely phenomenal,” DelBuono said. “She was thrown into a really unfathomable situation but she has pulled it off better than I expected any new town manager to.”
DelBuono also noted that she could clearly identify in Lane the qualities residents said they were looking for in a town manager.
“If we go out to a full search, we’re asking her to do another 90 days,” she added. “It’s not fair to ask her to continue doing two full-time jobs for nine months.”
A lengthy search process would take time away from other projects officials should be focusing on, Nagel pointed out.
The council will continue the discussion at their next meeting, Tuesday, June 14.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or email@example.com.