McCarthy Resigns; Select Board at Impasse Over Town Manager

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READING, MA –The Select Board was unable to decide on a new Town Manager at its February 6 meeting. The meeting began with Select Board chair Jackie McCarthy admitting to an open meeting violation on the topic by having a conversation regarding the candidates with one member of the board and then having a text conversation with another board member. As a consequence, she recused herself from the discussion and the vote on the new Town Manager.

“I let you down, and I let myself down,” McCarthy commented.

Surprising most of those present, McCarthy continued, stating that for reasons that are separate from the open meeting law violation and regarding circumstances that she chose “not to get into,” McCarthy announced that she would be resigning from the Select Board on Wednesday morning. McCarthy did not return to the meeting.

McCarthy was elected to the Select Board at the April 2022 local election, and a special election is needed to fill a vacancy on the board.

Former Select Board Chair Jackie McCarthy

After a brief break to gather themselves, the board discussed their thoughts on the Town Manager candidates. Vice Chair Mark Dockser began by praising the “robust process,” then sharing thoughts regarding attributes that he believes a town manager should possess, including service to the community and coming up with solutions.

Dockser continued, sharing that candidates Matt Coogan and Clancy Main were his top two choices, with Coogan being his first choice. He cited Coogan’s demonstrated leadership, creative problem-solving, and ability to bring the community together as reasons for his choice. He also related that Coogan’s references were “stellar.”

Select Board member Karen Herrick then shared that she has the same preference as Dockser. She made her choice for many of the same reasons as Dockser and made the determination after speaking with current and past staff and gathering input from residents and stakeholders. She mentioned that Coogan’s municipal finance background was also important to her.

Member Christopher Haley stated that he was impressed with how Coogan owned up to his past mistakes but that he is looking for a candidate who will be invested in Reading. “Matt Kraunelis has been invested in Reading for ten years,” Haley stated as he gave his support to Kraunelis’s candidacy. “We need stability in this office,” he continued.

Member Carlo Bacci shared that Coogan and Clancy were his first two choices after the interviews on January 27, but upon further reflection, he would be supporting Kraunelis as he worked with former Town Managers Robert LeLacheur and Fidel Maltez and brings stability to town hall. He also is impressed with Kraunelis’s resume prior to coming to Reading. Dockser then admitted that it is awkward with an internal candidate on the list.

Herrick restated her preference for Coogan as someone who is bringing a new set of skills to town and has been involved in developing municipal projects to completion. She added that she appreciated what Kraunelis had brought to the interim position but that his prior experience in town was “too narrow.” 

“Bringing in Matt Coogan is an additive process,” Herrick concluded.

After continued discussion, it became apparent that none of the members would be convinced to change their vote. The board then brainstormed a list of competencies that it considers essential, including municipal finance, community engagement, stability, and project management. The board closed the topic with the intent of holding a special meeting on February 13 at 6:00 pm. Dockser ended the discussion, emphasizing that the board needs to reach a conclusion at that meeting.

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