The search for a new Town Manager ended as it began - with a thud. By foregoing a second round of interviews for no better reason than a meeting that did not get posted, Selectmen appointed the town's new CEO this week under a cloud of controversy. An unfortunate veil of ineptitude has been draped over this board. The irony is not lost on this observer. In their haste to conclude a process that plodded on months longer than it should have, our chief elected officials skipped the final - and perhaps most important step in the process - a wayward course that was flawed from the outset. From a consultant who quit, to a search committee whose squabbling membership expanded and contracted like a rubber band, to this final, strange, and unfortunate step, the path that led to the selection of Julian Suso as the new leader of this community has been less than optimal.
Mr. Suso was and is not responsible for the mistakes made that brought him here. Indeed, he begins with a clean slate and an opportunity to rise to the challenges he faces. He appears to have the experience and temperament to do just that. As he has held the title of Town Manager far longer than this scribe, I will not offer any advice on how to practice the craft. I will, however, offer some thoughts on some key community people and issues on which I suggest he focus. Here, then, are a few suggested to-dos for our newly minted Town Manager, my unsolicited but somewhat informed advice for the new guy:
1. Call Gary Anderson - The Chair of the Finance Committee has been right on in sounding warning bells for our fiscal situation for years now. His admonition to previous appointed and elected officials alike to adopt conservative revenue forecasting and modest spending proposals went largely unheeded. When Town Meeting was asked to approve a $120k expenditure for a short-term note because we had to borrow $20 million for cash flow, it was a painful and expensive evidence of a glaring problem that needs attention. Mr. Chairman is bright, articulate, and has the town's fiscal health pasted on his forehead as a priority. Make him a trusted confidant and advisor, Mr. Suso.
2. Don't work here, engage here - Falmouth is more than a place to work - it's a place to breathe in the environs and experience a true sense of community. The last two Town Managers/Administrators came to work here from other communities and stayed - after their tenure - because Falmouth not only offers unparalleled natural beauty, it offers a je-ne-sais-quoi sense of community unlike any other. You can't grasp that sense of place, though, by working here and heading home. To become part of the fabric of this special place, Mr. Suso, you've got to make an appearance at a Clippers game, attend an Eagle Scout ceremony, deliver meals on wheels to our seniors, and spend some time in each of our villages. You've got to get to know Jack Sorgi and the staff at Paul's. You've got to pop into see Dave Chandler at Betsy's and listen to the coffee shop prognosticators (take what they say, though, with a grain of sea salt). You've got to stop on Trotting Park Road and hear about our farming history from Frank Rose. In short, don't just come and spend your working hours at 59 Town Hall Square. Engage and connect.
3. Unite a divided Board - This is probably the most herculean task. Even the vote to bring you on board was split (don't feel badly, I surely know how that feels). Strife and discontent has been the hallmark of this board for a couple of years now. You've got the chance to begin anew. Sprinkle in effective communication with an adept sense of humor and some straight talk, and you just might be on your way to a successful tenure.
Above all, this community is supportive and likes to focus on the solution, not the problem. Reach out and capture that positive vibe, and you'll be wearing the label of Falmouthite before long. Best of luck.
This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.