June 27, 2022

Councilors assess economic direction

PITTSFIELD – Mayor Gary Jordan said the Town Council has already begun preparing for Pittsfield Town Manager D. Dwight Dogherty’s retirement in 2003.

As Dogherty starts his 18th year as Pittsfield’s town manager, Jordan has asked him to create a complete job description that the council can use when it begins its formal search for his replacement.

“We have to start preparing for that, this year,” Jordan said Wednesday, “and begin to decide what we are looking for in a new town manager. We have no idea how long it will take us to replace him. Remember, Dwight has brought this town from a very, very bad financial situation to a healthy situation.

“There are some traits that Dwight has that we don’t want to lose,” said Jordan. “We will be weighing his strengths and his weaknesses as we look ahead.”

Keeping in mind that Dogherty will not be here in several years, Jordan said the council has been preparing for that transition. A review of each of the department head’s positions as part of that process began Tuesday night as councilors scrutinized the job duties of economic director Sylvia Hudson.

Jordan stressed that questions directed at Hudson during a budget workshop were regarding the position, not the person. “If we wanted to discuss Sylvia’s performance, we would have gone into executive session,” he said.

“We were simply asking ourselves if we are getting the biggest bang for our buck in economic development,” he said.

Hudson, who is paid $36,985 in salary and benefits annually, is also the town’s human resources director. She is charged with coordinating and reporting back to the council regarding the various boards and town committees.

Jordan said the council wanted to determine how much of Hudson’s time is spent on economic development and how much is spent on other duties.

“We know that the big projects that she was monitoring – implementation of the comprehensive plan, revamping the land use ordinances and creating the airport master plant – these took a tremendous amount of time,” the mayor said. “But these projects are now nearly completed and are going to be behind us.

“We need to know how much of our focus is on economic development, and determine how much of our focus should be placed there.

“It all comes right back down to: How do we spend our money?” he said, “and where is our focus? ”

Answering these questions, Jordan said, will be critical in determining whether economic development will become the primary or secondary focus of Hudson’s job, whether the job will remain a full-time position. It is also key in looking ahead to the transition without Dogherty as manager.

Jordan said the council wants an economic director “to work with our existing businesses, making sure they are healthy and allowed to grow. Our businesses are our most valuable asset,” he said. “At the same time, we want new businesses developed. We have empty buildings, space in the Industrial Park.”

The mayor said the council has directed Dogherty to put together a plan for economic development and determine how much time that should take, on a weekly basis.

“Is it a 40-hour job, or is it 20 hours a week? We need to know because we are responsible for how we spend the taxpayers money,” he said.

Jordan said, “This is a healthy thing to do, to have these types of discussions.”

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