Essex boards adopt schedule for finding a new municipal manager

After 25 years, Scheidel sets course for retirement


Colin Flanders
The Essex Reporter

Longtime Essex Town Manager Pat Scheidel will retire in the summer of 2018. FILE PHOTO

Longtime Essex Town Manager Pat Scheidel will retire in the summer of 2018.

The summer of 2018 might seem like a long time from now, but time flies when you are looking for a new municipal manager.

Municipal Manager Pat Scheidel has announced that he plans to retire in two and a half years. To give the town and village the best shot at having the right candidate in place by then, the village Board of Trustees and Essex Town Selectboard approved a recruitment schedule for the position during a joint meeting on Nov. 17.

Presented by Scheidel, the schedule lays out tentative dates for when certain parts of the search would take place. The process begins with the selection of a consultant in the fall of 2017 — if both boards choose to do so — as the recruitment process calls for collaboration on hiring. Scheidel believes that collaboration is important to the process.

“The person on the other side of the table needs to know who you all are and what you’re like, and can tell a lot by your questions. And you need to know that person can work with different people with different interests and different priorities,” Scheidel said.

An advertisement for the position would be released by January 2018, and an interview process — which could include staff, citizen and media involvement — would be established at about the same time.

While Scheidel suggested some sort of citizen involvement, such as a citizen committee, he believes the initial interviews should take place in executive session.

“If you have too public a process on who the person is, they will not come,” Scheidel said, citing the fear of losing one’s current job as a deterrent for applicants.

“When you get to the two or three [candidates], that’s when you need to be able to talk to them about being public. You need to know that they’re OK with the press at the interview, having the public ask questions at the interview,” Scheidel said.

The interview process would then begin in earnest in the spring of 2018, with first and second interviews occurring in March. After a finalist is selected in mid-April, the plan is to extend an offer by May 1, 2018, with the contract’s approval coming by the end of May 2018.

Regarding the length of a contract, Scheidel said he’s been “dismayed” when hearing that some of his colleagues have been offered one-year contracts.

“Were I to be advising them, I would say absolutely not. It takes three years really to be able to do a good job for an employer. The first year you spend learning as much as you can from the entire organization. So, if for some reason you only have a one-year contract, you can’t even offer any real positive suggestions if you’re new to the job,” Scheidel said.

He also highlighted the fact that a one-year contract would limit the candidate pool and possibly deter those who wish to relocate for the position.

“You want to project that you’re the best employer that they’re going to ever work for, and they’re going to give you the best they have because of that. So it’s a two-way street,” Scheidel said.

When asked if he plans to stick around to provide training for his replacement, Scheidel said he thinks it’s best to give the new manager a “clean slate.”

“I think it’s best for the old dog to be out when you bring the new dog in. It’s just a good way to operate,” Scheidel said, adding that he hopes the conclusion of projects such as the agreement on the Saxon Hill forest and the various building improvements around the community will allow the new manager to move forward at a fast pace.

“There should be no impediments from the past serving as an anchor. As much as I love this place, I do not want to be one of those anchors in any way,” Scheidel said.