Let's Appreciate Town Governance for a Change


To the Editor,

Christian Brown's letter to the Cricket last week was not only snide and nasty, but it was insulting to all the 200 or so women and men that volunteer to keep our town running.  He indignantly blamed volunteers for not publishing meeting minutes, inferring Manchester’s government is either incompetent or nefariously trying to hide something. 

Why not go to the meetings yourself or listen to their recordings—that are posted in a very timely fashion on the town’s YouTube channel—instead of being insulting?

Why not volunteer to a board or committee, and dive in first-hand to witness the challenges they encounter?

This kind of commentary is exactly what discourages competent residents and professionals from volunteering to run our town to begin with.  Remember: about three quarters of all the work done in town is done by volunteers.  Who wants to put up with such criticism?

The fact is, our town boards lack adequate staff, and the salaries of support staff are not what they should be largely because people insist on minimizing spending our tax dollars and few people want to apply for these kinds of jobs to begin with.  

Ideally, our town would be run by a full-time staff of paid professionals, but no small town can afford that.  With that in mind, people need to stop beating up on good people and volunteers and, instead, encourage and support them.

Mr. Brown goes further to criticize Manchester’s Town Administrator Greg Federspiel, referring to his salary based on a state-wide average, not one for the Cape Ann region.  Mr. Brown seems unaware that Mr. Federspiel is in his last three-year contract with the town, and his replacement will almost certainly receive a much higher salary. 

People should realize that Greg Federspiel is, by far, the best town administrator we have had in the 20 years I have lived in Manchester, yet he is the brunt of endless criticism.  Who do you think will rush to take up his job when he leaves?  Believe it or not, there will not be a long line of PhDs in Town Management waiting to apply to work in our little town, no matter how much we love it.  Particularly when they can read the paper and see how nasty people can be in this town in their continuous attacks of our town government.  

Look around.  There is a serious shortage of Town Administrators state-wide.  Many towns go without any Town Manager at all because no one applies for the job.  In many towns the position goes vacant, or they temporarily hire an accountant or an ex-Selectboard member who really isn't trained to do the job. 

Greg Federspiel deserves serious credit and support, not only for putting up with criticism like this, but for putting into place an effective facilities master plan that has aggressively tackled the repair of our town's infrastructure as well as working on a meaningful capital investment plan.  He put into place personnel policies, software, and systems to improve Town Hall operations, and he has tried to communicate honestly with us, through the press on a weekly basis, about the issues in town government.  He also made sure we hired a Town Planner who has obtained many grants which have saved us from spending our own funds to do that same work. 

These constant attacks on town government need to stop because, in the end, we all suffer when residents and professionals who volunteer to work for free lose their willingness to chip in for the benefit of us all.  We will also suffer if we lack competent leadership to avoid spending a lot more of our tax dollars to conduct the normal business of running our town.

Gary Gilbert


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