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 firstname.lastname@example.org.