In a split vote Monday, the Board of Selectmen opted not to renew the contract of Town Administrator Jack “Jack” Healey for another year.
Voting against renewal were Chairman Richard Spirlet, Antone Vieira and R. Michael Sullivan. Favoring contract renewal were Steven Ouellette and Craig Dutra.
The action comes despite a largely positive performance review for the part-time administrator and favorable comments about his work from selectmen.
Most said they wanted to keep him on but the majority balked at the notion of a full-year contract at a time when selectmen are considering a variety of options for the position. These include hiring a full-time administrator or keeping Mr. Healey on as a part-timer and hiring an assistant administrator to deal with more of the day-today demands of the job.
Mr. Healey, however, said that for planning’s sake he needs more certainty going forward than a continuation of three-month renewals.
“Jack is a class act,” Selectman Craig Dutra said later. “He even offered to assist with the process of finding a replacement.”
Mr. Dutra said he is “incredulous” that the board rejected a one-year deal for the administrator, especially with no plan in place for what to do next. “If this is the way we are going, you’d like to think we would have a search committee already set up and working, some clear idea of the next step … A proper search takes a lot of time.” He called it more evidence of “micromanagement by the majority.”
With Mr. Healey, “we have had the ideal situation,” Mr. Dutra said. “We pay him part time but he works closer to full time … He’s an incredibly productive person and very knowledgable because he has been at it for a long time. He is passionate about the work.”
He said he would have liked to keep the administrator and possibly bring on an assistant who could have worked alongside and learned from Mr. Healey — and perhaps fill his shoes someday.
Mr. Healey’s contract expired at the end of December and has been renewed for three-month increments that take him to June.
He has repeatedly indicated that he would be happy to continue in the two-day a week position — one to which he said he actually devotes three or four days of work.
Mr. Healey began his part-time Westport stint in October of 2011 after serving as an interim town administrator in Freetown. Previously he had been the town manager in Middleboro for 22 years after which he also took interim stints in Southbridge and Kingston.
He said at the time of his hiring that part-time work is ideal for him because it provides him with income (around $45,000 a year with no benefits) while allowing him to keep his pension.
Mr. Healey succeeded former Westport Town Administrator Michael Coughlin who left to take a similar job in Cohasset.