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Hawley to extend stay as City Manager

VERGENNES — Vergennes City Manager Mel Hawley has agreed to remain at his job — but only on a part-time basis until Aug. 31 — to allow the city council a little more time to find his permanent replacement.
Deputy Mayor and search committee chairman Jeff Fritz said good candidates have emerged from a search coordinated by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, but none would be able to take over in time, even on an interim basis, before Hawley planned to step down after this Tuesday’s council meeting.
However, Fritz said the committee should be able to pick a half-dozen candidates out of a group of 42 applicants to be interviewed in about two weeks, a timetable that should allow a final selection to be made in time to allow a new manager to start in September.
“That is our goal,” Fritz said, while assessing the candidates overall as “a good pool.”
Hawley’s promise to stay on awhile longer came at this past Tuesday’s special city council meeting.
The meeting was called solely with the intent of appointing candidates to — or at least discussing the status of — several positions that Hawley now fills. At one point during the meeting, council members were particularly enthusiastic about one manager candidate, whom they did not name.
And Alderwoman Lynn Donnelly said she was encouraged after reviewing the list of names the night before.
“They’re excellent,” she said. “I feel great about Sept. 1.”
Before Hawley confirmed he would remain on — for only as many hours a week as it takes to keep the city running, a number that was not pinned down at the meeting — he repeated that it made no financial sense for him to stay on the job past his 65th birthday, Aug. 7, because of the way the state’s retirement and pension laws are written.
He also mentioned another factor about his initially planned retirement date.
“My wife is very much looking forward to July 25,” Hawley said.
At the same time, Hawley said, “There is a moral responsibility that I have.”
As he stays on for roughly five weeks Hawley will be paid for full-time work and chew up unused vacation time, of which he has more than 300 hours. For instance, he said, if he works a 22-hour week, he will take 18 hours of vacation time.
Mayor Renny Perry called Hawley’s decision “wonderful news,” in part because he thought having an interim in for a little more than a month and then bringing a full-time manager up to speed would mean a lot of duplicated effort.
“I do think this is the ideal solution,” Perry said. “I’ve been scared to death of having an interim.”
Hawley warned the council that there were implications of having two instead of three full-time employees at city hall over the next five weeks: He would not be available to pinch-hit for his co-workers when they stepped out of the office.
“There is a sharp reduction in customer service in this scenario,” he said.
Perry said the trade-off was worth it.
“At least you know what to do to keep the trains running,” the mayor said.
The council did make one permanent appointment to fill one of Hawley’s roles: Former alderman Peter Garon will take over as Vergennes zoning administrator effective this Wednesday. His appointment is for the balance of Hawley’s three-year term in the post, which expires on June 30 next year. According to council members, the Vergennes Planning Commission had recommended his appointment.
Garon will work 12 hours a week. He currently serves as the chairman of the Vergennes Development Review Board and in the past has served as New Haven’s zoning administrator. Garon retired from full-time work earlier this year; he had been working as a human resources manager for the previous Northlands Job Corps administration.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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