GROVELAND — The Board of Selectmen is looking to start a new chapter and is looking for its first town administrator after support from Town Meeting voters last month.

The town now operates under the supervision of the five-member, volunteer Board of Selectmen, but voters authorized the board to hire a town administrator to handle day-to-day operations and financial matters.

The first person for the new post would be hired on a one-year contract and report to selectmen, according to a town press release.

Voters also approved the dissolution of the finance director position, allowing selectmen to reorganize municipal operations around a financial team to be led by the town administrator.

Joseph D'Amore, a former selectman, said he explained the issue at Town Meeting on May 24 before the affirmative vote.

D'Amore said former Finance Director Denise Dembowski left to become town manager of Stow last year and the town is now functioning with an interim treasury/collections assistant who works with selectmen.

"We have a very willing and caring five-member Board of Selectmen but they are all volunteers," D'Amore said. "We want to make sure that we are using a professional who will intervene on behalf of the Board of Selectmen in key areas such as personnel management and certain negotiations. We also need a chief procurement officer, a chief compliance officer, and someone that employees need to know is in charge."

Selectmen are expected to appoint a search committee that would review applications and recommend potential candidates for town administrator. Candidates will be interviewed by selectmen, who would make the final decision.

The new town administrator would be expected to serve for a year and could be appointed to recurring, three-year terms.

Selectmen Vice Chairwoman Kathleen Kastrinelis said in the press release the business of operating a town is growing in complexity.

"We were a volunteer Board of Selectmen and many issues can't wait for us to meet every other week," Kastrinelis said. "We want to have a professional operation so that our fantastic employees will have support and our residents will receive a high level of service."

Michael Dutton is the town manager of Bridgewater and has served as a town administrator on Martha's Vineyard.

He said shifting to a town administrator form of government would allow Groveland to professionalize its internal operations.

"You're creating a central internal authority and that gives a town much better processes, easier and better budget practices," Dutton said

He added that a town administrator can reduce a community's liability by making sure departments, such as human resources, are run in the correct manner.

"Sometimes, you can find in the smaller towns that they try very hard to professionalize themselves," Dutton said. "But ultimately, almost everything around human resources or personnel are so regulated now and so detailed that a board of selectmen trying to manage all of that is virtually impossible. Just that alone is really one of the biggest benefits of transitioning to professional management."

Locally, Newbury, Rowley, Boxford and Georgetown all employ a town administrator, while West Newbury and Salisbury utilize a town manager. Newburyport and Amesbury are cities with mayors and city councils.

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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