Vergennes City Council preps for new manager as Hawley plans retirement

VERGENNES — The Vergennes City Council on Tuesday began discussing how it will go about replacing City Manager Mel Hawley, who has been talking for the better part of a year about retiring some time in 2018.
Mayor Michael Daniels said he and council members agreed to reach out to the city’s department heads to gather interview questions, and that he will go online to research appropriate questions.
Daniels added he might also rely during the process on the hiring experience he gained as a manager in the Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services.
“I’m going to do some research on the internet to see if there are some guidelines already laid out, or whether I should shoot from the hip like I did in my previous job,” Daniels said.
Daniels said Vergennes Planning Commission Chairman Shannon Haggett has also volunteered to help with the hiring process, but that it is too early to establish a committee with an election about seven weeks away. The terms of city council members Matt Chabot, Lynn Donnelly and Renny Perry all expire on March 6.
But Daniels said he will share some ideas on a hiring committee with the council.
“We didn’t get into a lengthy discussion on that last night,” Daniels said on Wednesday. “I’m going to put some thoughts in email form to the council.”
Hawley confirmed on Wednesday the council can wait to form a committee. He said it is typical for city managers to offer three months notice when they are ready to leave, and that he would follow that protocol.
“I did tell them I will give them three months notice when I decide,” Hawley said.
He also continued to maintain, “I don’t have a target date,” when asked about when he plans to retire.
Hawley has said that because of the way his pension is structured — it is complicated because of the decade between 1998 and 2008 he left the public sector to work for Country Home Products — that there is little financial benefit for him to stay in his current job after he turns 65 in August.
“What I have said is it doesn’t make sense for me to work beyond my 65th birthday,” Hawley said. “In case anybody wants to send gifts, it’s on Aug. 7.”
Daniels expects to hear from Hawley before July. He noted the city manager’s annual appointment date is July 1.
“We’ll definitely know something prior to that time,” he said.
Daniels also believes Hawley, who has pledged to serve as Vergennes zoning administrator through 2020, is conflicted about retirement after 30 years of service to Vergennes.
“He has such a love for his position and a love for the city,” he said. “It’s not an easy thing to leave a position like that.”
Hawley began working for Vergennes as its city clerk in 1977. He became city manager in 1981 and stayed in that post until leaving for CHP in 1998.
Hawley stayed on as the city’s zoning administrator during his years in the private sector, and in September of 2008 served as interim city manager after Renny Perry, then the city manager and now an alderman, left for a post in Vermont’s court system.
In November 2008 a hiring committee that included Daniels removed the interim tag from Hawley’s title, and he returned to a full-time post in Vergennes City Hall.
Daniels said Hawley will not be easy to replace.
“We have one hell of a big set of shoes to fill here,” he said.

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