, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 12, 2013

Newly hired chief assessor backs out of job

WEST NEWBURY — Just one week after selectmen approved a starting salary for the new chief assessor, the candidate chosen to fill post has apparently changed her mind about coming to work here.

In a letter dated Jan. 30, Lauren Woekel of Pelham, N.H., notified finance director Warren Sproul of her decision and apologized for any inconvenience it might cause.

“I have spent the last few weeks contemplating my decision and unfortunately, I have too many reservations about the position and the town,” Woekel wrote.

At a meeting on Wednesday, Selectman Dick Cushing said he found the wording in Woekel’s letter “curious” given the recent history of employee departures and resignations from the town’s finance and assessors departments.

“We made convincing arguments for her to come and she found convincing arguments not to,” he said.

But when reached about her decision over the weekend, Woekel would only say that “travel, salary and benefits being offered from West Newbury” were considerations in her decision. “I decided that it was best for me and my family to remain in my current position with the Town of Tyngsborough,” she said.

Last month Woekel was selected from a pool of six candidates, all of whom were interviewed by Sproul and two members of the Board of Assessors. On Jan. 23 selectmen approved a starting salary for her of $75,000 and she was allotted three weeks vacation in her first year — one week more than stipulated in the town’s Personnel Policy. She was slated to begin work on Monday, February 11.

Sproul contacted Woekel immediately after she rescinded her acceptance.

“Two themes did come through in our conversation,” Sproul said on Friday. “One was that the salary differential was apparently not significant enough for the longer commute. The other theme was that there had been an outpouring of support from her current employer.”

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