Enfield Selectboard hires interim town manager as position may be voted out long-term

  • Jack Wozmak (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/20/2020 10:04:26 PM
Modified: 11/20/2020 10:04:13 PM

ENFIELD — A veteran county administrator from southwestern New Hampshire was picked this week to lead Enfield’s day-to-day operations on a temporary basis when outgoing Town Manager Ryan Aylesworth departs for a job in Connecticut later this month.

Jack Wozmak, who was the Cheshire County administrator for 17 years, will work 24 hours a week at Whitney Hall as officials search for Aylesworth’s permanent successor.

Wozmak, who lives in Walpole, N.H., also has a law degree from the Massachusetts School of Law and served as New Hampshire’s drug czar under Gov. Maggie Hassan throughout 2015.

“I think all three of us were highly impressed with him, certainly I was,” Enfield Selectboard member John Kluge said during a meeting Monday night. “He has a good ability to understand the town of Enfield and I think it’s going to be a quick study.”

The town has contracted with Meredith, N.H.-based firm Municipal Resources Inc., for Wozmak’s services, which will cost $85 an hour.

The Selectboard plans to interview three firms to help find a permanent replacement for Aylesworth, who plans to leave after three years in his post to manage Mansfield, Conn., a community of more than 26,000 that’s also home to the University of Connecticut. They hope a finalist will be chosen in March, around the same time as Enfield’s Town Meeting.

Wozmak will start work next week, meeting with officials as Aylesworth nears his last day on Nov. 30.

Aylesworth told the Selectboard on Monday that he has prepared a list of ongoing projects he’ll go over in detail “to make sure that all of the various balls being juggled will continue to be juggled.”

The announcement of a new interim town manager comes as a group of residents is calling for Enfield to do away with the position altogether.

A petitioned warrant article signed by more than 20 residents asks voters whether to “discontinue the town manager form of government” and instead replace it with a town administrator.

Under state law, town managers have hiring and firing power, serve as the town’s administrative head and are charged with authorizing and paying bills.

By contrast, town administrators work under the direct authority of the Selectboard, which retains executive, managerial and administrative powers.

Enfield first voted in the town manager form of government in 1996, with work initially performed by contractors until April Whitaker was hired to the role in 2002.

During Aylesworth’s tenure, he helped lead an effort to do away with the town’s system of elected fire wards and institute a system where the town manager would oversee the fire chief. Voters approved the change at 2019 Town Meeting.

Former Selectboard member Donald Crate, who is the lead organizer on the petition to scrap the town manager position, declined to comment on the proposal on Wednesday. However, he did criticize the Selectboard for going ahead with its search.

“I think they’re jumping the gun when they want to hire someone before this article even goes to Town Meeting,” he said in a phone interview. “No one in their right mind would even accept the job not knowing what the outcome would be in mid-March.”

While the Selectboard debated whether to continue, officials Monday concluded that the warrant article shouldn’t deter administrators with experience in small towns from applying.

“They’re still going to be able to see that this discussion was here and was out on the table, and we need somebody who can work through these and work with every form of person in this town,” Selectboard Chairwoman Kate Stewart said.

On Wednesday, Stewart predicted the article will fail because people recognize the expertise past town managers have brought to Enfield.

“It’s served us well,” she said of the town manager system, adding that Enfield needs professionals behind the wheel to guide finances and personnel.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

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