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LIVE BLOG: Town Manager Interview Bob Halpin [VIDEO]

Halpin had a Q&A with the public at 6 and will be interviewed by Selectmen at 7.

The first of the Town Manager finalists are being interview tonight.

Framingham Patch is live blogging.

Being interviewed tonight is

6:00 p.m. The candidate has arrived. He is introducing himself to those in the audience. There is only a handful of people here.

6:05 p.m. Audrey Hall is introducing herself as the vice-chair of the search committee. She also introduced the candidate and the process for the Q&A.

Individuals may ask questions up until 6:45 p.m.

The candidate will be interviewed by Selectmen at 7 p.m.

He made a brief introduction, which I videotaped and will upload later.

6:08 p.m. Chief sanitarian/inspector at the board of health is asking a question -- why interested in Town Manager position again?

Halpin - I have been doing the chamber of commerce thing for about a year.

I had a very successful career in those 3 communities, in solving very serious problems. Develop startegies that people can buy into. Taking differences and got people together. Used that skill in 10-12 years in economic development - and now help Framingham bring people together, look assests and and get back into community management.

6:10 p.m. Software engineer and newly elected Town Meeting member -- what are the three key performance indicators

Halpin - metrics around financial management, economic devlopment and ability to make decisions and key indicator around quality fo life, traffic is a a huge concern

6:12 p.m. Kathy McCarthy - Town Meeting member precinct 10 -- how someone would describe you as a manager - biggest challenge might see if Framingham.

Halpin - there is an amazing array of assets in Framingham. Everything on the table but for what ever reason those pieces not put on the table.

Describe myself as a big picture thinker ...

personality and energy and innovative thinking and ability to listen and extract commonalities.

Needs some leadership and needs some process to pull the pieces together .. not naive this is a big complication community

McCarthy - active group of volunteers in town - intention is to help out - when talking about team and big picture how incorprorate with the committees and volunteers

Halpin - layout a story for the town - for town meeting members to understand -work with standing committees and leadership ...builds an understanding around a budget - that is a 2-way conversation. .. looks for ways to get Town Meeting members active and have them articulat their stories to what their vision of the town is.

6:16 p.m. Halpin -- needs to be a process of communication

I heard a long list of building and infastructure needs in the town ... I could play a role in laying out that story ... gave example of North Andover High School... need to rebuild a high school 30 years old due to an open concept classroom structure built in the 70s.

A conversation with the community - with its needs - that will be a very complicated conversation

Joel Winett has 3 questions -- 1) Describe your management style - extremes to allow directors to run departments

Halpin -- Empowerment - responsibility and accountability

We create respource ad empower employees to be responsible.

believe in independence for my staff.High level of accounatbility expect both on money and results.

Describe myself as a facilitator.

Winett - question mayor vs town manager

Halpin - Mayor is directly answearble to the voters.

In the town government, has a town manager who brings professionalism in management who has to work with a board - has to be responsive and accountability. I would not describe selectmen as a constituency but my appointing authority

6:27 p.m. Talk about work with unions, employees from Mccarthy

Halpin - Been engaged in collective bargaining throughout the yearl have worked with union for significant reductions in health insurance costs

work with a school committee

collective baragaining is a strength of mine - labor relations is a strength

Joel Winett - third question -- change? how pro-active? what changes are needed and how innovative?

Halpin - tend to think of town government as 25 or 30 budgets - department heads then react to budgets and more money is rewards. Town Government IMO is more like 5-7 businesses.

Building relationships across department lines. Build team lines across juristdictions.

Look for relationship to build theseteam that would be focused on broad missions.

Free thinking ...connecting people ..private & public partnership. Getting people to focus on bigger and broader mission.

Bring example of something innovative in another community question?

Halpin -- Heard today about the permitting process - drag that may or may not be in economic development.

Gave example of how development case managers in Westford. Created an environment in which one person had a tracking responsibility. Flow of paer worked more effectively.

Independent boards still made independent decision; but customer felt someone was on top of their project

***

6:34 p.m.

McCarthy question on transparency and seeing the big picture and communication -- how do you intergrate that?

Halpin - Do you really want to be battling out the details in on a draining basin at a quarter to eleven?

Effectuve team of professionals hammering out the details adds a lot to the process

Mission --potential -- great potential - to great a vibrant diverse mixed ncome

create foot traffic for retail

hear hour and half and saw the train cross four times

suggest a zoning discussion -- atract a private partner to make improvements in the area. faith in development.

preservation tax credits and look at other opportunities.

***

6:40 p.m.

Winnet - followup - we have a no new apartments zoning bylaw ... have some 3-story development; there are some constriants.

Halpin -- adopt an overlay -- creates an overlay zoning - an amendment.

McCarthy - with town manager experience and economic development - how do you get high quality attracting businesses to be stronghold downtown.

Halpin - need to create a solid mixed income district - strategy cities are using - mixed residentual uses together with office uses with retail to warrant restaurants. .. younger workers looking for affordable housing.

and then feeling safe and secure in the process .. I'm not naive about that...

***

Winnet - what is Framingham?

Halpin - Framingham has a historic rural suburban community with an industrial heritage that was redefined by the automobile .. see plenty of town like North Andover that are rural that have not been defined like Framingham was by Route 9

Framingham can become a significant recognized center of activity ... downtown with mixed use .. leverage this location hafway between Boston and Worcester.

Framingham could be a center on the map the way you think of Woburn or Burlington.

6:46 p.m. Q&A session has ended.

***

Selectmen will be interviewing the candidate starting at about 7 p.m. We are awaiting the final selectman Jason Smith to arrive.

The Selectmen will re-organize its board first and then interview the candidate.

Smith has arrived - 7:03 p.m.

Selectmen meeting has been called to order.

Tradition after first meeting after election to have a re-org

Charlie Sisitsky is the new chair by a unanimous vote - 7:05 p.m.

Selectman Giombetti was elected vice-chair. Selectman Laurie Lee was elected clerk.

Charlie thanking Jason Smith for his work as chair.

7:07 p.m. Charlie Sisitsky going through what the process wil be tonight.

You (Halpin) are here to convince us to hire you - Charlie.

You have a rather unique background - Charlie - we are very interested in having about both aspects of your professional life.

Halpin opening statement -- thank you for allowing me to advance. I spent a great deal of time in Framingham the last few weeks. Have background as a Town Manager, with track record of achievement, in three communities in Massachusetts.

Bring parties togetehr around common vision -- take steps on a strategy to move the town froward - I have demostarted the ability to bring people together and to align resources to be responsible.

In 2000 I was hired in the Merrimack valley to work with 24 communities - Lowell, Lawrence & Haverhill - to work on economic development issues.

Built out a netowrk with state leadership, engaged with working with companies that drive the economy in the Merrimack Valley.

Core skills - convening, listening, aligning and getting thinsg accomplished.

Framingham is a community with tremendous assets ..

7:11 p.m. series of questions

Giombetti question -- methods to establish budget priorities, etc... how work with CFO and Selectmen in scoping the budget

Halpin -- budget approach is a collaborative - discussion with key decision makers. Build a revenue projection - understanding of which variable may move or need to be adjusted in the budget. Often times those changed would create conflict early in my career ...

then there is a consensus driven budget message that the town manger issues

Within those ranges given to department ehads, people are asked to prioritize

getting cooperation from the school department -- order priorities is key

Role of selectmen/CFO? - Giombetti question

testing the priorities with selectmen wih input from the department heads

Ability - more art than science - strategic needs of this community in this year call for (ie ....)

7:16 p.m. Laurie Lee question -- not familiar with the communities that you were Town Manager -- can you tell me if they have a strong Town Manager

Halpin -- Town of Pepperell - small residential community - high residential growth - was an executive secretary.

Hired in Westford in 1985 - with Selectmen who embraced a Town manager study report - with open meeting form of government - charter adopted in 1990 - strong town manager form of government.

appoint staff  hold accountable

Hired in North Andover - 1996 - moderately strong town manager - selectmen played role in appointments - finance director - principal support person on the budget

Ginger Esty question -- have you worked with a CFO?

Halpin -- worked with a Finance Director in other communities.

Esty - suggest Halpin should be familiar with statue role of CFO in Framigham.

Selectman Jason Smith question about chapter 70 $$$ in other communities -

Smith - 68-69% in Framingham

Halpin - Chapter 70 dollars allocated to Education - indirect municipal expenditures that school funded but wound up in the general fund.

7:22 p.m. Lee question -- skill set to help a community to move forward - describe a major project been involvd in.

Halpin - Wetford/North Andover project described -- came out of period in early 90s - significant loses in revenue - significant commercial taxes put onto residents - with a long list of capital needs. ie. Westford was $45 million high school

I was instrumental - being the convenyor -- increasing enrollments with a great capital need and sorting through a process of projecting out the municipal budget for 5 years -- enabled difficult decisions to be shared -- make this sacrifice - we will build free cash and put money in stabilization fund ...

In the process of straighten out the operating budget, we embarked on a discussion of not just the high school but also municipal projects overdue.

Selectmen voted three leading candidtes - high school, built a police station and acquired a piece of land - into a debt exclusion which passed in Westford - while maintaining reserves.

When through a similiar process in North Andover - saw a major vote tor eplace a high school at $60+ million

another instance ... lot of land needs in Westford - future site for middle school, protect an aquifer near stonybrook ... consensus alreay in place to find a way to fit it in the capital plan. executed over 10 years... because people were aligned - and had a hsared priority - things were accomplished.

7:28 p.m. Lee followup - what role did Selectmen play in those projects?

Halpin - in those communities - success was achieved by getting elected School Committee and Selectmen and appointed Finance Committee on the same page. ..important to have that team aligned headed to Town Meeting.

Giombetti followup - talk about how you build consensus. and then when do you decide it is time for action.

Halpin - More a matter of understanding of where people really want to be -- try to stay focused on the objectable outcome that we all want to work on to achieve.

Smith followup -- project worked on within the chamber of commerce/more recent

Halpin - been at the chamber less than a year - rapid decline in membership and revenue - been sorting through the membership - 120 let go as they did not pay the dues.

Halpin - Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council -- service an industrial park with significant land lock open space in Tewksbury, Andover & Wilmington - each wanted an intersection/interchange - each had distrust of each other

Played a role - work with each community - form consenus - task force - met for over a year - framed an action plan to get past the difference that were holding them back - look at 700 acres as shared resources

all three communities designated as priority development site - they all protected the residential neighborhoods ...

Esty - followup on that -- "If you can do that you can a lot."

Esty - experience in maintianing and improving community infrastructure and how communicate the needs to the residents

Halpin -- never want to be in a reactive/defensive mode. Giving example of sewer project problem in North Andover.

Giombetti followup - Westford - commercial business presence there.

Halpin - arrived in 1985 - leveraged $$$ to not only do intersection but corridor study on Route 110. ...

Giombetti - sewer/water infrastructure - in your career in Westford/North Andover - to assure that?

Halpin - Town had zoned route 110 to commercial highway - town has maintain that zoning - town consistently reviewedthe corridor study .. having a plan in place at the start..

Lee followup question -- mentioned doing a large sewer project in North Andover -- if you had to brings omething controversiall to Town Meeting - how would you handle that?

Halpin - much played out in seelectmen's meetings and free town meetings

I think the challenge there was to have people feel that they were being listened to ... it was not as bad at Town Meeting as it was at the community meetings leading up to TM.

There was an order issue from DEP -- andtaht sort of forced people's hands.

7:44 p.m.

Sisitsky - management style - bigger and complex than other communities?? how mesh with Selectmen's goals? proactive? reactive?

Halpin - management style - convenor, facilitator, listener ...

take town's priorities and sleectmen's goal to community forums

At some point it moves beyond consensus ...I don't believe in working exclusive with 4-5 department heads ...it is a big town....

My interaction with staff today I think they want to see the Town manager...

I worked with North Andover to breakout of the trap that only 4-5 people could only see the Town Manager .. as longa sit was challenged in the direction with the goals for the town.

Itis one of taling through problems .. and put together a plan and at some point making a decision.

Halpin - interaction with selectmen - accountability with a professional staff - be effeincient, effective and get things done.

My job is to help you - to make sense - to tell teh story of Framingam's future - in stratgey, in goals and take that shared startegy back to staff and the community.

7:48 p.m. Giombeti followup question - deal with the employee not on the straetgy or goals of the town?

Halpin - people are either going to be on the team or not on the team.

Halpin - consistent team heard throughout the day - all the pieces are there in Framingham but not one has put them altogether.

Halpin - team accountability - performance evaluations - holding people accountable for their actions

Lee followup question - responsibility for hiring the dividion heads? two candidates and they are similiar apples to apples of experience and qualifications.

Halpin - what is the tie breaker?

Halpin - communicaton stye, teamwork

halpin - sometimes come down to a matter of chemistry with management and policy leaders in the community

7:52 p.m.

Smith - desctibe a project that was controversail and how you moved forward.

Halpin - Northeast Solid Waste in North Andover - no host community fee paid to North Andover. no substantial community fee - significant political consituency opposed to the incinerator. .. great deal of local resistence to permitting the facility - selectmen wanted $250,000 a year in community host fees. - host fee was paid in 2005...maintained relationship with those opposed to the project

Smith - How?

Halpin - listening and having a reasonable conversation.

Smith - what would you have done differently with that project?

Halpin - could have gotten DEP to be clearer that it was not going to allow that plant to close down -- they were committed to 50% of the soldi waste in Massachusetts so it never could close if the town chose not to permit it.

7:57 p.m.  Esty question - one of the department heads say you don't appreciate the department or its value to the community - and that the department head plans to go directlyto selectmen.

Halpin -  I would push back and ask department head to document the quality of the department. .. there is a process ..

I can help a department head who feels they do such a good job but is not respected - Halpin

Esty - followup question -- not reporting to the manager ...how deal with that.

Halpin - expect people to be honest straight-forward and telling the truth and there are consequences with not being straight-forward. Building a senior team enforce the startegies of the town to move forward ... consequences to not fulfilling the actions ..that is disciplinary.

Halpin - it becomes enforces within the team atmosphere culture.

Lee - followup question - how do evaluate division heads and how often? give monthly or quarterly reports?

Halpin - weekly senior team meeting .. lot of discussion of cross functional tasks -- anuual evaluation

Halpin - expectations are within a given department but what are expectations expected across the entire team ..

Halpin -- giving example in North Andover - making facilities more attractive and cleaner - and everyone on the team was evaluated on that goal.

Halpin - make progress as a team

8:05 p.m. Giombetti question -- large business community - homeof major corporations - in Town Manager role - relationship with the businesses and role in economic developmenta nd redevelopment

Halpin - North Andover - more built developed than Westford

Lucent technologies - had a significant presence and disappeared overnight - had significant interactions with Lucent technologies (AT&T) - significant issues with traffic, water delivered to the site etc..

Halpin - North Andover fairly consistent contact with manufacturing, ie Mass Electric, more intune with downtown Framingham - small downtown - retail oriented and met with those people - ie snow removal, empty trash receptables, for example.

Halpin - part of it is willing to make a phone call and asking is everything okay and not being afraid to do that.

8:08 p.m. Lee question -- goal development with each department.

Experience with benchmarking?

***

8:13 p.m. Sisitsky - tenure at Town Manger in NA - where eat my lunch

probably at my desk - Halpin - maybe sometimes in conference room with staff.

Sisitsky - if you went for a walk ona  sunny day would people know who I was.

Hapin - yes I would encounter people wantching selectmen meeting and people have a comment or question. Treated well by the constituency in North Andover.

Sisitsky - how much time during the work day week month with local legislators?

Halpin - 5-10% - met with state senator and state rep. - I believe a phone call or a meeting with an agenda is a lot better than just meeting.

Giombetti - vehicles to engage the community??

Halpin - like tothank you have 60,000 individual conversations, but you can't...

but you want to be assessible - some organized stakeholder - downtown business association, league of women voters, or volunteers who want to build a playground -- try to get most out of thsoe interactions.

8:17 p.m. Jason Smith question -- role of technology in administration?

Halpin - In North Andover, the town dpeartment were connected via the cable company, unless 34 degrees and snowing and in that case the netire network would fail.

Back to talk about strategy - it was cheap but not sure the greatest idea to link buildings via cable. Finally went to boradband tecnology.

North Andover - had an MIS director

Human resources in town government -- question from Smith

Halpin - sense people feel proud of their work they are doing in Framingham. Important to have ahuman resource infrastructure that rewards people in meaningful ways - that make people feel good. ...many people feeling frustrated from what I could sense today ... in a non-financial way.

Smith - when you interview people for positions your process?

Halpin - do they fit on the team? communication style. Are they a contributor to discussion. ability to put different communication styles into a team to achieve goals.

Smith - feedback on candiates interviews?

Halpin - at divison head level - looking for expertise. management environment. Feedback on communication style and are they a contributor. innovative, cerative, team player

Smith - successful hire and worst hire???

Halpin - Finance director in Westford - who came to us discharged form a nearby community for political reasons. but who exceed expectations. molding a fianncial management team, working with incumbents to work together

Halpin - hire building commissioner in Westford - and it was a disaster -- sold a bill of goods on his skills from previous manager - learned lesson .. he was not a good communicator - lot of technical savvy but not consensus ability to communicate. when let go there was a big file on the table.

8:26 p.m. Ginger Esty question - reviewing an employee with issues? do you wait for the annual?

Halpin - give some people some latitude, some mentoring and coaching, ultimately somce documentation .. and there is a formal review but owe it to peopleto be a coach.

8:27 p.m. Lee question on negotiting with unions.

Halpin - extensive collective bargaining experience and proud of my accomplishments in this area.

Halpin - successfully - took advantage of a once only opportunity of all school contracts and municipal came up with the same time -w orked with supt to charge the group health insurance and brought in HMO Blue - negotiated through 6-8 municpal unions and stayed in contact with Supt. onhis negitiations. .. saved significant $$$$

Esty - boards of selectmen and Town Meeting are not always on the same page - how do you deal with the different views?

Halpin - have to start with some good will of wanting the best for thetown - no discussion that is personal or strays too far away from a legitiate disagreement on policy.

Halpin - important to be heard - viewpoint was taken into account - decision made and then move on.

Halpin - Often times in an open town meeting, best to help them frame an amenedment so there is a vote ...

Esty - followup - have you found some ideas dead right but that the issue is with timing?

Halpin - yes or it is an emotionally charged environment

Esty - would you re-think the strategy?

Halpin - you can agree to disagree. And it may not be the right town

Esty - worked with representative Town Meeting?

Halpin - no, but I understand the differences; having talked with other Town Managers

8:30 p.m.

Smith - describe yourself in 3 adjectives

Halpin - energetic, innovative, engaging

Halpin - what attracts me to this opportunity - economic development and town manager skills

still processing what I learned today. I would like to play a role into putting the pieces together.

Halpin -- offered a chance to ask questions ...

Halpin - find ways not to be reactive .. i think I brings omething to that equation. Like to hear from sleectmen on how tobe proactive and not reactive andhow to tell the community and town meeting "our story"

How work together as a policy board ...

Giombetti - have that shared vision of Framingham for 3-5 years and having those shared vision of the shorta nd long term goals. Everyone buys in but not only told to organization but to the community.

Not sure it has always been that way ... having a town manager that can help develop that ... is critical.

Lee -- talk about the elements in town need to come toegther ... keeping that sense what is the big picture when you are doing all the pieces.

Smith - accounatbility, communication and deliverables

Accountability - what to hear it from you and not from a constituent

Communication - be it an email or phone call to each and everyone of us

Deliverable - how show them

8:40 p.m. Halpin - heavy discussion on how to enagage the community.

Halpin - do you meet with School Committee or cross policy making meetings?

Giombetti - they are situational ...

Sisitsky- met with School Committee with budget, contracts

Esty - general chemical

Meeting ended at 8:50 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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