Acting Superintendent of the Marion Department of Public Works Jon Henry said he would withdraw his resignation on Wednesday, June 27, at the request of the Board of Selectmen, but under one condition: no more micromanaging.
According to Henry during a follow-up after the meeting, things had been going great for him as interim superintendent, even despite the March storms that set the department back both financially and in its capacity to maintain its regular duties after an extensive storm cleanup. But where things went sour was when newly elected Selectman Randy Parker approached Henry during a time that coincided with talk on social media about the state of publicly maintained properties such as cemeteries and parks, alluded Henry.
Therefore, when Board of Selectmen Chairman Norm Hills asked if Henry would be willing to rescind his resignation and continue as interim superintendent, Henry replied, “I would do that with one requirement that I think is essential to meet – micromanaging has to be avoided.
“And I consider Mr. Parkers’ approach to be micromanaging to the point that I was required to resign,” said Henry.
On Friday, June 22, Henry submitted a letter immediately resigning from the temporary superintendent position he has held since February, which was meant to carry the Town into August when results of an efficiency study of the DPW would guide the Town on how to evolve the superintendent position based on any future restructuring of the DPW.
Henry, a former selectman, replaced former DPW superintendent Rob Zora after he retired in December 2017 without notice after 33 years.
With the results of the study not expected until mid-August, plus the subsequent time needed to hire a permanent superintendent, whatever that position may look like, the board quickly determined that it could facing three to four months with no one leading the DPW.
“We need to have something in the meantime,” said Hills after a brief discussion on the progress of the efficiency study.
Town Administrator Paul Dawson could again manage the signing of the payroll and paying of bills like he did just before Henry’s appointment, but, as Dawson pointed out, the day-to-day DPW operations wasn’t something he could fully take on with his current role.
Before the conversation came back around to asking Henry to continue as interim superintendent, Parker pushed for other alternatives, wondering if another longtime in-house employee could manage the department for four months.
“Just because they’ve been there a long time doesn’t mean they have the capability of running the entire department,” said Hills. Dawson concurred. Each DPW office has its own foreman capable of running their division, Dawson said, “But I don’t think that there are any of those people who currently are experienced in the budgeting or the administrative – what I call the bigger picture, the administrative piece of it.”
“The other option,” said Hills, “is if Mr. Henry was willing to reconsider his decision,” which is entirely up to Henry, Dawson pointed out as Henry sat nearby. “That’s the quickest decision,” Hills added.
Parker, still considering other options, said, “The quickest isn’t always the best.” Either way, he continued, “We’re on a short shoestring. If you post [the temporary position] you’re looking at six weeks.”
Parker pointed to the six weeks that spanned Zora’s retirement in December to Henry’s appointment in February when the DPW was able to function without a superintendent, and pushed for taking that time to post for another temporary position.
Selectman John Waterman stated, “I thought Mr. Henry was doing a good job. … The optimal decision would be – honestly, I don’t think we can find a better person [than Henry].”
Hills preferred to avoid the “nitty-gritties” behind Henry’s reason for resigning, but said to Henry, “Basically, as a department head, you are responsible to the board as a whole, and, in fact, we can only act as a board as a whole in open meeting …and individually outside that meeting.” Hills said he would like to think, should Henry experience problems, he would bring to the board as a whole and vice versa, “And as a board, the board handles it.”
“You know what your expectations are,” said Waterman to Henry, “and I don’t think it’s our job to get in the way of the day-to-day dealings.”
The Board of Selectmen’s administrative assistant had not yet filed Henry’s letter of resignation with the Town Clerk’s Office, even three business days after the receipt of the letter, so Hills refrained from calling for a vote to accept Henry’s resignation or his withdrawal.
Henry said he would resume his interim position, adding the caveat, “With the warranty that that won’t happen again, I would gladly pick it up and run with it.”
Henry explained that, after the late winter storms, the DPW was “$200,000 in the hole.” Town Meeting appropriated another $150,000, Henry explained, “But it’s still $50,000 in the hole.”
“That’s the reality of the situation,” said Henry, “but that will right itself this Monday,” the fist day of the new fiscal year.
“I don’t mean to be critical,” continued Henry. “It was a tough assignment because of the long [tenure] of my predecessor.” It took time to gain the confidence of the DPW employees, explained Henry. “And I’m not a babysitter, I’m there to do a job – I’ve developed my own plan, I have my own list, and I’m following them, at least I was until then.”
Waterman was satisfied with the decision to continue with Henry, and Parker said he had no comment on the matter.
After the meeting, Henry told The Wanderer that post-storm budget restraints have prevented him from hiring the extra summer help that is customary every year; instead of the usual five seasonal workers, he only has two. And with the trash truck breaking down and not enough workers to cover the town, Henry said, “If you don’t have the manpower you can’t get it done.”
By Jean Perry