Norwich promotes town manager from interim to permanent

  • Brennan Duffy (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/29/2023 8:26:03 PM
Modified: 10/1/2023 2:09:21 AM

NORWICH — In an unexpected move, the Selectboard named a new town manager this week, promoting interim Town Manager Brennan Duffy to fill the role permanently.

In a 3-2 vote on Wednesday, the board gave Duffy a three-year contract that extends to October 2026.

“With his calm and thoughtful leadership, the Selectboard, the staff and the town have begun a steady path toward the stability our town has been lacking,” stated a press release from the Selectboard on Friday.

Duffy, a former economic development leader in Rutland, had served 10 months as the town’s interim manager. He joined the town in December 2022, replacing former Town Manager Rod Francis — who parted ways with the town after finalizing a separation agreement with the Selectboard. In July the board gave Duffy a one-year contract extension. In the permanent role, Duffy will earn an annual salary of $144,773.

But the board’s process to promote Duffy — which occurred without public input or a formal candidate search — led several residents to express their consternation.

The board’s vote occurred immediately after a nonpublic executive session on Wednesday to discuss Duffy’s contract. The board also held two emergency meetings last week to discuss Duffy’s contract, but those were held in executive sessions behind closed doors.

“In all my years I’ve been involved with the town, this is an unprecedented process which has taken place tonight,” Cheryl Lindberg, town treasurer and lister, said at Wednesday’s meeting. “There has always been a search committee established with community members and a process that vets the candidates.”

Prior to Wednesday’s vote, the Selectboard was planning to conduct a regional or nationwide search for a permanent town manager. But as of this week, the board still had not contracted a recruitment firm to lead the search.

Selectboard members explained in a press release announcing the hire that they had received “time-sensitive information” last week that required an immediate discussion of Duffy’s contract.

“As part of that process, and upon deep reflection, the Selectboard determined that it was in the best interest of the town to forgo the time and cost of a recruitment consultant search and to offer the position to Brennan,” the board’s release said.

Selectboard Chairwoman Marcia Calloway, Vice Chairwoman Mary Layton and board member Priscilla Vincent voted in favor of the hire. Board members Roger Arnold and Pam Smith voted against giving Duffy the permanent job.

Smith said in an email that she wanted to stay with the plan to conduct a formal search so that multiple candidates could be considered.

An email to Arnold seeking comment was not returned.

Notably, Rod Francis, Norwich’s previous town manager, also was promoted from interim town manager to the permanent role. The Selectboard had offered Francis the position in February 2022 after a formal search failed to yield another candidate. Francis would only hold the permanent position for nine months, during which time he faced challenges ranging from employee vacancies to public criticism about his management style.

Jaan Laaspere, chairman of the Norwich Planning Board, reminded board members at Wednesday’s meeting about the last two years of acrimony “based on the disconnect between the Selectboard, the (former) town manager and the public.”

Laaspere expressed concern about the board’s lack of transparency, saying that emergency meetings — which do not require 24-hour notice, under Vermont law — should only be used for true emergencies.

“To have two (emergency meetings) in a row, the town had no idea what was going on, and that is just worrisome,” Laaspere said at Wednesday’s meeting.

Vermont statute allows emergency meetings to be held “only when necessary to respond to an unforeseen occurrence or condition requiring immediate attention by the public body.”

Duffy said in a written statement that his 10 months serving in an interim capacity has provided him a strong understanding of Norwich and its challenges and complexities.

“In this new permanent role, I hope to have the stability and continuity in which to continue my efforts to help lead the Norwich community in a positive direction,” Duffy said. “I appreciate the Selectboard’s confidence in me to take on this challenging and important position.”

During his tenure as interim town manager, Duffy has helped fill some key staff vacancies, including the hire of Barrie Rosalinda as the permanent town finance director in August.

The town is still searching for a planning and zoning administrator and a permanent chief of police.

In August, the town named Matthew Romei, the former chief of Vermont’s Capitol Police Department, the interim chief of police, replacing former Chief Wade Cochran, who resigned after serving just nine months in the role.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at or at 603-727-3216.

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