Amherst selects Shankle for post

AMHERST – Dean Shankle Jr., a 30-year veteran of municipal government in New Hampshire, has been chosen to be Amherst’s new town administrator.

At their meeting Monday night, selectmen voted unanimously to hire Shankle after choosing him out of a field of 34 applicants.

Shankle lives in Milford and is currently the town administrator of Hooksett, a job he has maintained since 2011. Before that, he served as town administrator of Epping, Merrimack and Hinsdale. He is replacing Jim O’Mara, who accepted a new position in Massachusetts during the summer.

In a statement, board Chairman Dwight Brew cited Shankle’s “depth and breadth of experience with the laws, regulations and customs of New Hampshire, as well as an understanding of what citizens expect from their local government. This background will enable him to be productive from day one.”

Shankle received his doctorate in political science and a masters degree in public administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

He also has a master of science degree in community economic development from Southern New Hampshire University. He graduated with a bachelor of arts, summa cum laude, in American studies from Keene State College.

Shankle is a Fulbright Scholar and has lectured on public administration, strategic planning, leadership, organizational change management and policy analysis.

“His education is an indication of his strong belief that lifelong learning is essential,” Brew said. “He understands how important it is to keep up with changes in technology and management practices. He called out our strategic planning projects, special initiatives and various studies as one of the areas that made the Amherst position an ideal fit for him.”

Applicants came from 11 states, 15 of them from New Hampshire, and one from South Africa.

The board and Amherst Police Chief Mark Reams, who represented town department heads, conducted the search, with help from Municipal Resources Inc. (MRI), of Meredith.

The MRI team reviewed and ranked the resumes, then distributed essay questions to the top candidates, then reviewed the essay responses and started preliminary background work to prepare for phone interviews.

Essay questions went to 12 candidates, and three withdrew at that time.

On Nov. 8, the selectmen, Reams and Alan Gould, president of MRI, met at Town Hall to interview the top four candidates in person, each for about an hour.

All seven members of the interview team unanimously identified Shankle as their top choice, and then MRI initiated both a detailed reference review and background review and two members of the board met with him to verify that he would accept the position if the selectmen voted to officially offer it.

Shankle is expected to begin working full-time in Amherst on Jan. 14.

Selectmen had initially identified two search firms to interview, MRI and the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center For Public Management, out of Massachusetts, but the Collins Center was not able to respond because its funding from the state of Massachusetts requires it to restrict its services to Massachusetts communities.

Brew said selectmen hired MRI, at a cost of $6,500, “to attract the best candidates … and help demonstrate to the public and all candidates that this was an unbiased process, focused only on hiring the best possible candidate for Amherst.”

Shankle has published a number of articles over the years, including a series on technology for the New Hampshire Municipal Association’s Town and City Magazine.

“The articles were in line with what we as a town want to focus on,” Brew said, and covered various facets of local government, including housing, economic development, technology, training, grants.

“The Amherst Board feels that Dean can help us continue on our upward trajectory. He has lived in this area since 1994 (first in Merrimack, now in Milford) and is very familiar with many attributes of Amherst. He pointed out that Amherst has been able to maintain the quaint New Hampshire small-town feel but have been able to combine that with amenities such as golf courses and a winery. Dean looks forward to helping us continue to balance our cultural resources, natural resources and economic development.”

Shankle will be making an annual salary of $108,000 per year, and O’Mara was making just over $105,000 a year when he left, Brew said.

“When we were beginning our search process, he said, MRI “strongly suggested we increase this range slightly because of the competitive market for town administrators in the area. We went out with an advertised range of $90,000 to $112,000.

“Dean was making just under $106,000 a year in Hooksett. We offered and Dean accepted an annual salary of $108,000 a year … I believe that Dean’s reasons for accepting the position in Amherst were less financial and more about where we are and where we want to go as a town. What we have done and how we want to continue with strategic planning was important to a number of the candidates and certainly to Dean. Dean’s track record in this area was an important element in the board unanimously agreeing that Dean should be our next town

administrator.”

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

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