Muni Matters: Candidate Shortage | Worcester Manager Search | Grant Strategies

In Mattapoisett, Two Open Seats and No Candidates

When Mattapoisett residents head to the polls in less than a month, their ballots will list two open spots on the School Committee and no candidates to fill them. Neither of the incumbents who would be up for reelection this year pulled or returned papers declaring their candidacy, according to the town clerk’s office. Two other potential candidates took out papers in March but did not file them before the town deadline. “This past September, my husband and I welcomed our second child into our family and I am ready to open the seat for someone who has more time to devote to the position,” incumbent Karin Barrows said in a statement to Sippican Week. “I am so thankful for the time I spent on the board and grateful to the people of Mattapoisett who entrusted me to make critical decisions about their children’s education during such a tumultuous time.” The other incumbent, Shannon Finning-Kwoka, did not return requests for comment from Sippican Week, the paper reported. The board comprises five members, with one serving as a delegate for the Old Rochester Regional School Committee that governs schools serving Mattapoisett, Rochester and Marion. Candidates could still be elected to the two empty seats via write-in campaigns. Mattapoisett’s election is scheduled for May 17. – Meg McIntyre/SHNS

Worcester Preparing for City Manager Search

After more than eight years on the job, Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus will leave City Hall for the last time next month. And a search for the city’s next chief executive will soon be underway — the City Council’s Municipal and Legislative Operations Committee is expected to discuss the selection process for Augustus’ permanent replacement at its meeting on Wednesday. Augustus announced in March that he would step down on May 31.

“Serving the people of Worcester as its sixth city manager has been the honor of my life. I am forever grateful for the support I have received from the City Council, the city family, and the residents of Worcester,” Augustus, a state senator from 2005 until 2009, said in a news release. “I take great pride in the accomplishments we have achieved together – united in a common purpose: to improve the quality of life of our residents.” On April 5, the City Council voted to appoint Eric Batista as acting city manager starting June 1. Batista has served as assistant city manager and director of Worcester’s Office of Urban Innovation, and was involved in developing a slate of police reform recommendations brought forward by Augustus’ office last year. The original motion called for Batista’s contract to last for nine months, but some residents and councilors had concerns about setting a defined term and whether that would make Batista the de facto choice for the permanent job. Several councilors stressed that they support Batista but want to see more public involvement in the decision than has been typical of previous searches. “I feel really, really uncomfortable already making the determination of who our next city manager will be without proper process,” District 5 Councilor Etel Haxhiaj said. “And so whether the ad hoc committee is a combination of [municipal and legislative operations], or other people in the community or the city council, I really urge us as a body to follow the process to have community input.”

After a failed motion by District 3 Councilor George Russell to set the acting manager’s term at two years, the council ultimately voted 11-0 to appoint Batista to serve until a permanent city manager is appointed. The council also voted 11-0 to approve motions proposed by Councilor-At-Large Khrystian King, which will require the city to select an executive search firm through a request for proposals to oversee the hiring. The Municipal and Legislative Operations Committee is set this week to consider Batista’s contract and salary in executive session, followed by a public discussion around the formal selection process for a permanent replacement. The committee has also been tasked with forming a community ad-hoc committee to gather input directly from residents. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the Levi Lincoln Chamber at City Hall. – Meg McIntyre/SHNS

Improving Western Mass. Grant Chances

Municipal officials in Western Mass. will have four opportunities over the next few months to get detailed advice on how to better leverage state funding for their communities. Local leaders are invited to attend a series of virtual information sessions sponsored by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. The webinars will focus on building local capacity to pursue grant opportunities and increasing the number of successful grant applications in the region. The first session in the series took place on April 12 and focused on Community OneStop for Growth, the state grant application portal rolled out by the Baker-Polito administration last year. The platform allows local officials to apply for multiple grant programs through one centralized, streamlined process. A recording of the event is available on the FRCOG website. Future events are scheduled for April 26, May 10, May 24 and June 14 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with this month’s session to feature representatives from the Federal Highway Administration and MassDOT. In the following weeks, municipal leaders will hear from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, Mass Cultural Council, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, and the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security. The offices of state Rep. Natalie Blais and Sens. Jo Comerford, Anne Gobi, Adam Gomez, Adam Hinds, Eric Lesser and John Velis helped organize the series, according to FRCOG. Attendees can register for the Zoom sessions online. Community One Stop for Growth applications for fiscal year 2023 must be submitted between May 2 and June 3. – Meg McIntyre/SHNS

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