Three city manager finalists announced, including Cambridge’s own finance expert
Whether the next city manager should come from outside the city has been a persistent theme in the search to replace Richard C. Rossi, who worked for Cambridge for 45 years, including 32 of them as deputy city manager under Robert W. Healy, who was also city manager for 32 years.
City councillors have a chance to extend that dynasty. One of three finalist candidates for the city manager position, as revealed Thursday, is Louis A. DePasquale, the city’s assistant city manager for fiscal affairs since 2002.
Before that, DePasquale was the city’s budget director, and has worked in other capacities in the city’s budget and treasury departments. DePasquale, a graduate of Boston State College and Northeastern University, is a popular and pleasant fixture in Cambridge who has long been credited by city managers for his hard work and contribution to the city’s long run of brilliant finances – including a 17-year streak of top ratings from each of the nation’s three major credit rating agencies. Cambridge is one of only about three dozen communities nationwide whose finances won this three-part stamp of approval in 2016.
“I’m honored to be in the final three,” DePasquale said. “I’m proud of my record here. I’ve worked here over 40 years, 34 in the senior staff. I’ve proud of what we’ve accomplished … I live here, and I think I’m looking forward to the next step – to just share my vision in the rest of this process. And I think, just see how it goes.”
The candidates from outside Cambridge:
Robert “Jay” Ash Jr., secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development for the state. Before that he served in a variety of roles in Chelsea, including 14 years as its city manager (and, before that, its executive director of planning and development). Ash, a graduate of Clark University in Worcester, also served in the 1980s and 1990s as a legislative aide to state Rep. Richard Voke.
Paul J. Fetherston, currently assistant city manager in Asheville, N.C., and before that deputy city manager in Boulder. A graduate of Trinity College in Connecticut (with a law degree from the Western New England School of Law in Springfield), he also has held a variety of municipal management positions in Connecticut. The populations of the cities Fetherston has helped run, as of the 2010 U.S. Census, were smaller than Cambridge’s from that year: 105,162. Asheville has 83,393 people; Boulder has 97,385.
Rossi, nearing the end of his three-year contract, announced in mid-March his plans to retire this summer, then extended his time by three months to avoid a gap in city leadership. He had been deputy city manager since 1981 under City Manager Robert W. Healy, and was given his sole three-year contract beginning when Healy retired in 2013 after 32 years overseeing Cambridge’s government operations. Rossi had also served as purchasing agent, acting commissioner of Public Works and acting director of the Water Department as well as the years as deputy city manager, and his departure means the loss of significant institutional knowledge for the city.
Rossi will leave mere days after his replacement is chosen.
The candidates were endorsed unanimously by a 15-member panel put together to recommend finalists to the City Council – and including councillors Leland Cheung, David Maher, Nadeem Mazen and Tim Toomey. The council’s final vote has been given as coming Sept. 26, but the City Manager Search Process page on the city’s website gives a date of Sept. 29, which would call for a special meeting of the council to be called.
A “Meet the Finalists” forum is planned for 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the Fitzgerald Theater at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, 459 Broadway, in Mid-Cambridge near Harvard Square. The meeting will be broadcast live on the City’s Municipal Cable Channel, 22-CityView.
“During this forum, each finalist will present their vision for the city, answer questions and meet members of the public. This is a great opportunity for the public to hear directly from the finalists,” said Maher, who served as chairman of the city’s search committee.
The public can submit suggested candidate questions to the Committee until noon Monday. GovHR USA, the recruiting consultant working with the council on the hiring process, will generate questions based on the themes submitted by the public. Suggested questions can be emailed to cambridge@GovHRUSA.com.
After the formal presentation and question part of the program, the finalists will be on hand to answer individual questions from members of the public.
The photo of Paul J. Fetherston is by John Hawkinson, who also contributed to this report. This post was updated Sept. 15, 2016, to reflect that the full City Council may vote for a city manager Sept. 29.