NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

April 29, 2013

Local races, library, Senate vote on ballot tomorrow

Voters have a big day tomorrow. It’s the day of the town’s annual spring election. To be decided is the five-person race for two selectmen’s seats and the two-person race for town moderator, as well as whether the plans to build a new library will go forward.

Also on the ballot is a special senatorial primary. Voters will pick the final list of candidates to run to replace former U.S. Sen., and current Secretary of State, John Kerry.

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For nearly a decade, Town Manager Neil Harrington’s performance evaluations have been stellar, with scores in the mid- to high nine range, on a scale from one to 10.

This year, for the first time since he was hired in 2003, Harrington received a mediocre appraisal, with scores averaging from the 7.4 to 8.4 in categories of general administration, external relationships and personal characteristics. As in the past, all five selectmen rated Harrington on 25 specific responsibilities in the three categories.

“In all three categories the scores are below last year’s average numbers,” Selectman Henry Richenburg said to Harrington at the selectmen’s meeting. “In the General Administration area, improvement needs to happen in the area of leadership and supervision. In Personal characteristics area, focusing on making decisions in a more timely manner needs to be worked on.”

Areas selectmen want Harrington to work on includes getting better communications between town departments, implementing department head performance evaluations and being open to suggestions by others.

But selectmen applauded his financial management during hard times and the continued success getting government grants, like the $3-plus million grant for the proposed new library. Richenburg also congratulated him on his professional conduct as town manager.

Harrington said in the past he’d never responded in writing to his performance review, but this year he would. He expressed his disappointment that some of the selectmen chose to use his evaluation as a way to cite their “philosophical” differences with the considerable authority Salisbury’s Town Charter assigns to the town manage, as opposed to the selectmen.

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