New Claremont city manager’s past precedes him, raising questions

  • From left, Claremont Assistant Mayor Debora Matteau, City Manager Octavian “Yoshi” Manale, City Councilor William Limoges, Emma Limoges, and Conservation Commission Chair Gary Dickerman mingle during a meet and greet at Claremont Savings Bank Community Center in Claremont, N.H., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. The event was held to introduce residents to Manale, who started in his role with the city on Monday. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to valley news / report for america — Alex Driehaus

  • Claremont City Manager Octavian “Yoshi” Manale at Claremont Savings Bank Community Center in Claremont, N.H., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Alex Driehaus

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/8/2022 10:58:43 PM
Modified: 10/8/2022 10:58:32 PM

CLAREMONT — Claremont City Councilors said they are optimistic and excited about their choice of a new top administrator in Octavian “Yoshi” Manale, though the councilors have also had to field a number questions from residents about their selection.

Manale, 42, began his first week on Monday as Claremont’s new city manager, which included a meet-and-greet on Tuesday that drew approximately 40 city residents to the Claremont Community Center to meet Manale, the city’s third municipal manager in six years.

The council surprised many residents by announcing the hire of Manale at a special meeting in September following a unanimous council vote. There had been little public communication regarding the search after May 28, when the council reported that their formal manager search, using contracted recruitment services by Municipal Resources Inc., a Meredith, N.H., consulting firm, did not yield a candidate that satisfied the council. According to Mayor Dale Girard, councilors had interviewed four candidates who applied in that search, but none were offered the position.

But past news stories pertaining to Manale’s resignation in May as the town manager of Brattleboro, Vt., after just five months also raised questions about whether Manale would be a good fit in Claremont, as well as how the council came to select Manale, who had not been one of the four candidates originally interviewed.

According to a story by news website VTDigger, Manale resigned following public criticism about Manale’s termination of a 60-year EMS contract with the nonprofit Rescue Inc. without public debate.

Manale also stated in his resignation letter that he was not “the right fit” for the position,” saying that Brattleboro’s small community created “a lack of anonymity” and “a prominence of his position” that made it difficult for Manale to perform his job effectively, according to excerpts quoted in VTDigger.

Manale’s comments led some residents to wonder about Manale’s decision to apply for the Claremont position, given the city’s population is approximately the same size as Brattleboro’s.

But Manale told the Valley News that his feeling of incompatibility was with Brattleboro’s town government structure, not the community size.

Manale said he has traditionally worked in city-style government like Claremont’s, where the city council holds the budgeting authority, as opposed to the town-government model in which the town voters have the final budgetary approval.

Under a city-style government, the manager works primarily with the council, which can to move budgetary matters more quickly than towns, which often have to delay projects until the annual Town Meeting.

“Even though the two (communities) are similar population-wise, I feel like (Claremont’s) city government, in terms of how it is being run, is more in line with how larger cities are structured, and I am more used to doing that,” Manale said.

Manale said he was already considering whether to remain in the New England region when Claremont officials reached out to him and encouraged him to apply for their city manager position.

“I feel that Claremont has so much potential and opportunity for growth, and I really want to be a part of that and help them get to where they belong,” Manale said. “There are a lot of issues (here) that need to be resolved, but I feel with my energy that is something I am excited about, because there is never going to be a dull moment here.”

According to Girard, the council had reached out to “about a half dozen” experienced municipal managers, one of whom was Manale. Though Manale was the only one to apply for the position, Girard said the council hired him “entirely on merit.”

Notably, Girard co-owns Golden Cross Amblulance, an EMS contractor in Claremont, which the Brattleboro Selectboard hired as a temporary EMS provider after ending their services with Rescue Inc.

Girard told the Valley News that he had no interaction with Manale during his tenure in Brattleboro, as Girard had primarily discussed the temporary EMS contract with Brattleboro Fire Chief Leonard Howard.

In addition, Golden Cross is only providing services in the interim, for the duration of the current fiscal year, Girard said, adding that he believes the Brattleboro Fire Department plans to take over that town’s EMS services in the future.

“It was definitely one of those cases where I felt there wasn’t a conflict of interest because he had already left the position and I didn’t even know him,” Girard said.

Girard said he considered abstaining from the council vote to hire Manale. But Girard wanted to show solidarity with the council, who had already voted 7-0 in the roll call vote before Girard’s turn to vote came.

Several councilors told the Valley News they were fully aware of the news stories about Manale in Brattleboro when they interviewed him and that councilors had asked questions and were satisfied by the answers they received.

Assistant Mayor Deb Matteau said conflicts between governing bodies and a municipal manager are part of the natural political process, as opposed as a negative reflection of a manager.

“A good city manager typically ruffles some feathers to get the job done,” Matteau said. “And it’s a learning process on both sides of the table.”

Manale acknowledged that he has sometimes clashed with governing bodies and elected officials when serving in public positions, including in Trenton, N.J., where he served three years as the mayor’s chief of staff and the deputy mayor until resigning in 2021 and while serving as the town administrator of Bloomfield, N.J., when he resigned after 17 months following a conflict with the town council, and said he has learned from these experiences how to govern through conflicts.

“I learned that you really have to look at the big picture, at what the council and manager are trying to do,” Manale said. “There is more than one way to get something done. What I do now is always try to provide alternatives. And if they don’t like the options, then they will have to help to find something, because doing nothing is (usually) never an option.”

Patrick Adrian can be reached at 603-727-3216 or at

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