Town administrator on way out?

Amherst official recently offered position in Mass.

AMHERST – Selectmen in Webster, Mass., recent­ly voted to appoint Am­herst Town Administrator Jim O’Mara as their new town administrator.

According to an Oct. 3 story in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, the board voted 3-2 to hire O’Mara, subject to suc­cessful contract negotia­tions.

O’Mara confirmed the story Oct. 6, saying he is mulling the offer and had informed Amherst select­men.

The Amherst resident has been the town ad­ministrator for five years. Prior to that, he had been chairman of the Amherst School Board and then a selectman. When he was appointed town adminis­trator in 2011, he left his job as superintendent of the Hillsborough County Department of Correc­tions.

The two dissenting se­lectmen, the chairman and vice chairman, said they preferred their act­ing town administrator, saying she had proved herself over 16 months on the job.

Vice Chairman Randall Becker expressed con­cern over O’Mara’s "strong personality," which he said might stem from 20 years as the county jail superintendent.

Becker said he also was concerned that O’Mara’s employment could cre­ate a conflict of interest if O’Mara’s brother-in-law, Webster Police Sgt. Thomas V. Ralph Sr., were ever to vie for the police chief’s position, according to the newspa­per.

In advocating for act­ing administrator Pamela Leduc, Chairman Donald D. Bourque said that over her 16-month tenure, the board members said she was the best person for the position.

That it didn’t now, he said, "boggles my mind," and he suggested the board was driven by emo­tions.

According to the Tele­gram, one of the select­men who backed O’Mara said he was "disgusted by the flawed process" and dissatisfied by "games and back-door maneu­vers," on which he didn’t elaborate.

Webster is in south-central Massachusetts on the Connecticut bor­der. An old mill town, it is larger and more urban than Amherst, with more than 16,000 people. It is also less affluent, with a median family income of $48,898, compared with Amherst’s median family income of $97,913.

Dwight Brew and Reed Panasiti, chairman and vice chairman of the Am­herst Board of Select­men, did not respond to requests for comment.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.