Select Board Forms Town Manager Screening Committee

Town Manager Screening Committee

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Reading, MA — By a vote of 5-0, the Select Board voted on Tuesday to create a seven-member screening committee that will choose three or four finalists for the Town Manager position. Town Manager Fidel Maltez was recently appointed as the new City Manager for Chelsea and will begin his new role in Chelsea on January 1. The committee will be composed of two members of the Select Board, two department heads, Moderator Alan Foulds, and two residents at-large.

Consultant Bernie Lynch of Community Paradigm Associates suggested that the Select Board could be in a position to select a final candidate by the end of January.

In a separate vote, the board voted 3-2 to appoint Chair Jackie McCarthy and Vice Chair Mark Dockser to fill the two Select Board seats on the committee. Select Board member Carlo Bacci had also expressed interest in serving on the committee. Bacci and Select Board member Christopher Haley were the dissenting votes.

The Select Board will appoint the department head representatives at their November 21 meeting and interview and select the at-large residents at a special meeting on November 28. McCarthy also proposed that Assistant Town Manager Matt Kraunelis be appointed Interim Town Manager from January 1 until a new Town Manager is selected, which could be several months. 

Local Election

Following a conversation at their prior meeting, the Board voted 5-0 to combine the local election, scheduled for April 2, with the Presidential Primary election on March 5. Town Clerk Laura Gemme shared at the October 24 meeting that making the change does not save a lot of money, about $10,000, but it often increases voter turnout. She also pointed out that combining the elections increases the number of ineligible mail-in ballots as voters are confused that the ballots need to be sent in separate signed envelopes. If this step is done incorrectly, Gemme continued, the ballots are considered invalid. Gemme shared samples of the mail-in ballots with the board and ideas about how to make the process of submitting ballots simpler for voters.

Select Board member Karen Herrick expressed concern about the plan due to the rejected voter ballots. “Incremental turnout [increase] cannot overweigh my concern,” Herrick shared. In support of the idea, Haley cited cost savings, time savings, and voter turnout. 

“The positives outweigh the negatives,” Haley suggested.

New DPW Director and New Director of Equity

Director of Public Works Chris Cole

The board formally met Director of Equity and Inclusion Albert Pless as well as Director of Public Works (DPW) Chris Cole for the first time in their new roles. Cole, who has served with Reading’s DPW for twenty years, has been the department’s assistant director for the last nine years. He shared a presentation that included plans to maintain Reading’s streets and sidewalks during winter storms and provided updates on the Auburn Street Water Tower, Emerson Street water mains, and Sturges Park Pump Station projects. Of note, Cole shared that the Emerson Street project will be delayed until next spring.

Director of Equity and Inclusion Albert Pless

Pless outlined plans for the future, including a look at policies and procedures, building leadership, and the need for an equity assessment. He shared that this will allow his work to be data-driven and focused in pursuit of the goal of “acknowledging and celebrating all cultures in Reading through partnership and collaboration.”

During his liaison report, Bacci shared that the Reading Pickleball Association will be withdrawing their citizen’s petition from Town Meeting consideration in November. Maltez indicated that the warrant article would be tabled.

The Select Board adjourned at 9:40 pm.

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