Ferrisburgh opts for a part-time treasurer

FERRISBURGH — At a meeting last week with Town Clerk and Treasurer Chet Hawkins and town auditors, the Ferrisburgh selectboard changed course and agreed with Hawkins’ recommendation to advertise for a part-time assistant treasurer.
In November the selectboard had advertised for a full-time treasurer, but at an occasionally tense Nov. 19 meeting Hawkins said he would not step down from his post to allow the selectboard to hire a treasurer because he believed it would be better for him to hire someone for the job.
Hawkins’ main point was that if that person did not work out Hawkins could also then fire him or her, while state law would not allow the selectboard to fire someone whom they appoint to fill what is an elective position.
All agree that Hawkins and assistant treasurer Pam Cousino need help to keep up with the growing demands on their time, and that last week’s meeting was friendly and productive.
But in November Hawkins also questioned whether a full-time person was needed and told the selectboard he was upset he was not consulted before the treasurer ad was placed.
Hawkins also received support from residents who spoke at the Nov. 19 meeting. One agreed with the hiring and firing issue, and another pointed out that the ad the selectboard ran did not restrict applicants to living in Ferrisburgh for what is an elective post with a residency requirement.
Hawkins and selectboard chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said the Dec. 3 meeting, which produced an advertisement seeking an assistant treasurer who would work for up to 20 hours a week and report to Hawkins, was a positive one.
Hawkins said at last week’s meeting he apologized for acting “hostile” at the Nov. 19 meeting, and that the Dec. 3 gathering was friendly.
“We moved forward … in the best interest of the town,” he said.
Lawrence said selectboard members and auditors appreciated Hawkins’ sentiment, and called the meeting “very productive” and “very friendly.”
“We all wanted to work on the common goal of … getting Chet and Pam the help they need,” Lawrence said.
Hawkins said one of his main goals was making sure the third person in the office was competent and compatible, and having the post as an assistant meant he could make sure that was the case. 
“I will know if they are working well or not,” he said. “If it is working out I will let the selectboard know.”
There are still moving parts. If the suitable candidate is a Ferrisburgh resident, he or she can run in March to become the town treasurer. If the hire is from out of town, Hawkins said he is willing to maintain the title and make sure the work gets done, an arrangement that had been effective — at least until the job’s demands grew — with Cousino performing most of the treasurer duties.
“If the person is a resident, they can run. If not, they can continue on part-time,” Hawkins said, adding, “The best thing, in my opinion, is to get the most qualified person to do it … If the person is not a resident, I can stay.”
Lawrence said it was premature to speculate about how things might work out down the road, but said the selectboard is happy with the resolution of last week’s meeting.
“This is the best option. This just makes sense. Sometimes you have to plow through issues to come to a common goal,” she said. “We came in with a positive outlook and ended with a positive outlook.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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