New Haven hires its first town administrator

NEW HAVEN — The town of New Haven has hired its first ever town administrator.
Aaron Brown, a New Haven resident, will begin work in that position on July 9.
“I’ve lived in New Haven for two and a half years and look forward to working with its citizens, selectboard, Planning Commission and Development Review Board to promote a vibrant community,” Brown said in an email to the Independent.
Brown stood out among 15 candidates for the job, said Steve Dupoise, chair of the New Haven selectboard.
“Our planning commission fully looked into Aaron’s resume and contacted his references as well as talking to his current employer, Charlotte, where he is the zoning administrator. Everyone gave high praise to his qualifications. The planning commission gave 100 percent backing to the recommendation for the selectboard to hire.”
According to the posted job description, some of Brown’s duties as town administrator will include:
•acting as town and selectboard liaison officer.
•overseeing the operations of town departments.
•serving as the town’s human resources department.
•preparing and posting meeting agendas and warnings.
•managing proposals, bids and contractors.
•acting as Emergency Management Director.
•writing grants, negotiating town insurance and assisting with budget management.
•overseeing use and maintenance of public buildings and properties.
What makes Brown’s job different from that of a typical town administrator is that he will also be responsible for zoning administration, including assisting the New Haven Planning Commission with writing zoning and town plan components.
Combining the two sets of duties into one full-time job was the New Haven selectboard’s answer to zoning administrator retention issues.
Three previous zoning administrators have quit in the past two years. Hoping that more robust compensation would lead to less turnover, the New Haven Planning Commission asked the selectboard to consider beefing up the part-time position’s hours, which did not qualify it for benefits.
After what it said had been years of on-and-off discussion about creating a town administrator position, the selectboard began exploring the idea in a focused way back in March.
Not everyone was on board with the idea, however.
“I voted NO to advertising for a new position,” wrote selectboard member Jim Walsh in a March 31 Front Porch Forum post. At that time no formal job description had been created. “New Haven only has about 1,700 residents and not a large commercial base to support the additional cost of this proposed position.”
Later in the post, Walsh predicted the new position would add $50,000 to $70,000 to the town office payroll every year and encouraged residents to attend future selectboard meetings, ask questions and share their opinions.
On April 2 a few of them did just that, echoing Walsh’s concerns, but the issue at subsequent meetings inspired sparse attendance.
Over the next three months, Walsh voted against motions related to creating the position and excused himself from discussions and meetings related to potential candidates.
At a May 28 joint meeting of the selectboard and the planning commission, Walsh distributed a letter and then left.
“I have not cast a single yes vote to spend time and town money in the efforts to create this job,” he pointed out in the letter. “Personally, since joining the selectboard four years ago I have completed over two dozen projects. Our problem in my opinion is we do not as selectboard members, paid town employees and elected officials commit the needed hours that would accomplish the tasks and projects that are identified.”
Walsh estimated that the town administrator portion of the new position would add an additional $30 in taxes per year for every single New Haven resident. Given recent financial developments — the town wasn’t anticipating such a steep final education tax bill, which Walsh pegged at “1/3 million,” and had to take out its largest ever tax anticipation line of credit, at $950,000 — he was convinced a new town administrator was “not a wise expenditure.”
“I personally harbor no ill feelings for any of the applicants for this position, but I must at this time excuse myself from the board’s discussion in regards to this proposed new position.”
The contract for the position specifies a $48,000 annual salary, Dupoise told the Independent in an email on Tuesday.
In a phone conversation last week he acknowledged that some people are worried that New Haven doesn’t have enough money for the new position, but he’s confident that because the zoning administrator position has been vacant for so long, there will be more than enough money to cover the rest of 2019.
“It’s possible that the town might even save money next year,” he added, though he declined to go into personnel-related issues over the phone.
In the meantime, New Haven’s new town administrator has gotten the thumbs-up in the town office.
“He’s a great guy,” said town clerk Pam Kingman. “I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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