The Milton Selectboard appointed Milton fire and rescue chief Don Turner to fill the town manager’s seat as current manager Donna Barlow Casey makes her exit this week.
Members voted 4-0 in favor of the option at Monday night’s meeting; vice-chairman Ken Nolan was absent.
Per the town’s administrative code, an acting town manager can be in place for 180 days, setting the board’s timeline to get a permanent manager in place by mid-September.
“This forces the team to look at what’s the most important work that needs to be done,” said Barlow Casey, whose last day is March 22.
After about 20 months at Milton’s top post, she resigned last month to take a position as executive director of Vermont’s Natural Resource Board.
The transition plan also involved tapping finance director Sarah Macy to fulfill duties left by director of administration Erik Wells, who resigned in early February for a public affairs post at Burlington School District.
This includes human resources, which Macy said naturally ties in with her department’s payroll duties.
Selectboard chairman Darren
Adams said in the interim, the board will meet every Monday instead of every other and will soon discuss next steps, like appointing a town manager search committee.
“With Donna’s departure, we should take our time and do this right,” Adams said. “I want to make sure we have, in the short term, some stability, and that’s why Don is an easy choice for us.”
Turner, a lifelong Milton resident, is also a local realtor, developer and the Vermont House’s minority leader, requiring him to be in the legislature every day, Tuesday through Friday. As such, Macy will be the go-to person at the Bombardier Rd. town offices, Turner said.
“There’s nothing in Montpelier that’s life or death,” he said. “If I have to come back … I’ll come back. There will be times where it will be challenging for sure.”
The legislative session will wrap up in May.
Turner and Macy will host weekly staff meetings to delegate important work. Consultants like engineers may handle spring paving, or legal counsel may assist with the town’s upcoming tax increment finance projects, Turner said.
“This can’t be a timeout period,” said Turner, who noted he spent all weekend reviewing the administrative code, town charter and organizational chart. “We’ve got to keep moving, and we’ve got to keep the board informed and keep on progressing.”
Barlow Casey said with hers and Wells’ departures, there’s about $50,000 left in the town manager’s office salary line items to cover consultant and legal costs.
Turner is also expected to get a salary boost to compensate for his extra duties, while Macy’s salary already accounts for her additional workload, Adams said.
Turner said existing town staff will take over his fire/rescue administrative tasks in the meantime. Adams added Turner has a seasoned command structure there to handle daily operations.
Adams said it’s important to not let projects drop off the radar, particularly TIF. The town wants to build a signalized intersection on Route 7 to encourage economic development but needs state approval first.
“Using TIF to do that is exactly the goal of a TIF district,” he said. “But for this project, future development wouldn’t be able to happen.”
The clock is already ticking, since the last chance to incur debt in the town core TIF is March 2018.
Despite the turnover, Barlow Casey urged residents to be confident in their town government.
“We have two of the best people we can have here, supported by the senior staff who have worked as a team before,” she said. “It’s not ideal for the town manager to be departing, but I think this doesn’t have to become an issue.”
Turner and Macy asked the public to have patience while they adjust to their new roles.
“The staff will do everything they can to address their concerns as fast as we can,” Turner said.
“That’s our goal – to make it through, one month at a time,” he continued. “I’m optimistic.”