By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — One big loss could mean another big gain at Town Hall.
Selectmen are considering whether to hire an assistant town manager as they analyze options for replacing community development director William Scott, who is leaving June 24 after 12 years on the job.
Town Manager Keith Hickey recommended to the board Monday that the new position be created. Scott’s current duties would be merged or redistributed. Community development would be a top focus of the new hire, Hickey said.
“It fills a position that I think is critical to the future of Salem,” he said.
Scott, hired by the town of Amesbury, Mass., as its new deputy community development director, could serve as a consultant to Salem as it pursues economic development grants, Hickey said.
The move would shift supervision of several town departments from Hickey to the assistant town manager.
“It would allow me to concentrate on some of the bigger-picture issues for Salem that aren’t getting the attention they need,” he said.
Hickey currently oversees a dozen departments. Five of those would be supervised by the assistant town manager, who would earn between $70,000 and $90,000, according to human resources director Molly McKean. Scott earns $92,705.
But Selectmen Everett McBride Jr., Stephen Campbell and Patrick Hargreaves were reluctant to give Hickey immediate authorization to begin advertising for an assistant town manager. Hickey hoped to begin advertising this week and have the new employee start July 8.
Discussion is expected to continue today when selectmen meet with town department heads at 6 p.m. for their annual goal-setting session at Town Hall. Selectmen also will talk about the position again at an upcoming board meeting.
“I do agree we need an assistant town manager,” Hargreaves said, “but I think we are flying a little bit faster than we need to be. I am interested in what the department heads have to say. I won’t support all this until we have more information.”
Hargreaves, Campbell and McBride, the board’s chairman, said they were reluctant to move forward without knowing more about the position and possible salary.
“I’m not prepared tonight to make that decision,” McBride said. “We’ve made snap decisions in the past that have come back to bite us. I don’t want to do that tonight.”
But Selectmen Michael Lyons and James Keller disagreed, saying they needed to begin the search immediately.
“Not doing anything, to me, is irresponsible and imprudent,” Keller said.