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Enfield town manager announces departure to take job in Conn.

  • Enfield Town Manager Ryan Aylesworth departs the Enfield, N.H., Fire Department with Fire Ward Lloyd Hackemen and Brian Duggan, of Municipal Resources Inc. after a meeting of fire officials was canceled because they failed to meet a quorum Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. The meeting was set to discuss the vacant fire chief position after Chief Fred Cummings, who was appointed to replace David Crate upon his resignation, stepped down two days later. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/30/2020 9:17:30 PM
Modified: 9/30/2020 9:24:10 PM

ENFIELD — Town Manager Ryan Aylesworth, who during his three-year tenure has led efforts to shore up Enfield’s finances, restructure its fire department and study its long-term infrastructure needs, is leaving later this fall to take what he called a “once in a lifetime” job offer in Connecticut.

Aylesworth plans to depart Enfield, population 4,564, to become town manager in Mansfield, Conn., a community of more than 26,000 that’s also home to the University of Connecticut.

The Mansfield Town Council on Tuesday evening voted to give the 37-year-old Aylesworth a three-year, seven-month contract that includes a $163,000 a year salary and $5,000 annual stipend for a vehicle.

It takes effect Dec. 1.

By comparison, Aylesworth currently makes a base salary of $109,000.

But the move isn’t about money, Aylesworth said in a phone interview Tuesday. Rather, he said, the job presents a “unique opportunity” to manage a larger community that also has rural and academic characteristics.

Aylesworth added that he’ll miss Enfield, where he and his wife started a hobby farm on three acres of newly cleared pasture.

They have three children, with the youngest born this July.

“It’s just been a phenomenal place to call home for our kids and, to be quite honest, a tremendous amount of soul searching has gone into this,” he said. “I have been incredibly happy in Enfield.”

Aylesworth came to Enfield in 2017 from the Berkshire County town of Hinsdale, Mass. At the time, he was one of 53 applicants vying to succeed longtime Town Manager Steve Schneider, who held the position for 11½ years.

At Whitney Hall, he quickly became known for his patience, listening skills and thoughtful approach to contentious issues.

Selectboard Chairwoman Kate Stewart described Aylesworth on Tuesday as well-prepared, often the smartest person in the room and possessing a “continuous improvement mindset.”

Aylesworth, she said, took on several challenges, from working down a roughly $120,000 deficit in the town’s rainy day fund to helping secure donations and grants to expand Mascoma Lakeside Park.

Aylesworth also improved the town’s messaging to include a monthly newsletter and frequent updates on social media, tools that came in handy as he tackled loftier challenges, such as a reorganization of the fire department.

Spurred on by worries that Enfield’s firefighters lacked adequate training and manpower, Aylesworth spearheaded 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.

The move, which required Aylesworth to take on longtime residents and town elders, was approved by voters during Enfield’s 2019 Town Meeting.

“That’s a lot in a short tenure,” Stewart said of Aylesworth’s accomplishments. “These are things that municipalities work on for 10 or 20 years,” she said. “It’s not something that every small town our size could do.”

More recently, Aylesworth and a group of volunteers have engaged in a year-long study of Enfield’s municipal buildings to identify and prioritize future needs.

Former Fairlee Selectboard member Jay Barrett, a White River Junction architect who advised the group, said Aylesworth kept an open mind and valued diverse opinions throughout the process.

“I think he brought some youth and some fresh blood to looking at the town, looking at what the town’s challenges are and trying to prioritize,” he said.

Mansfield’s town councilors say they saw similar attributes during job interviews. Aylesworth was one of 30 applicants for the Mansfield position, which has been open since 2019.

“I felt like if this is going to be the guy that’s on our side then that’s a great thing,” Councilor Sam Bruder said during Tuesday night’s meeting, which was streamed online. “He knows his stuff, he comes prepared and I really feel like his background and his experience are going to be amazing for our town.”

Stewart, the Enfield Selectboard chairwoman, said officials expect to discuss Aylesworth’s departure during a meeting scheduled for Monday.

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

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