Sunday, April 14, 2024


One of three candidates for city manager has dropped out ahead of the City Council’s official vote Thursday, saying he decided the job was not right for him “professionally and personally.”

Robert “Jay” Ash Jr. said in a press release that he will remain 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.

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. The search has been run by councillor David Maher with the help of the consultant GovHR USA.

City councillors could extend that dynasty by selecting finalist candidate Louis A. DePasquale, the city’s assistant city manager for fiscal affairs since 2002. The final candidate is Paul J. Fetherston, currently assistant city manager in Asheville, N.C., and before that deputy city manager in Boulder.

In staff scores from a screening process, Fetherston got the highest score of 72.5. DePasquale followed close behind at 71. Ash was third at 62.5.

In the search process run last year by Maher to find a new superintendent for the school district, one of three finalists dropped out before the School Committee voted, saying, “Cambridge has decided to go forward with another candidate.” A district official later confirmed that the candidate, Stacy Scott of Framingham, had been told he was no longer in the running.

Ash’s statement:

“Months ago, I was asked to get involved in Cambridge’s search for a new city manager. As a former municipal leader, the opportunity was intriguing, and the way to explore the opportunity was to apply. I’m glad I did so. I met a lot of great people, and enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the community better. More importantly, I learned a lot about what’s important to me, professionally and personally. I now believe that the opportunity to serve as Cambridge’s next city manager is not the right fit for me. I have chosen to withdraw my name from further consideration.

“In my heart, I believe that being part of the Baker Administration is more important to me than being part of any other administration. I remain committed to the mission of this administration: Growing jobs, helping communities realize their economic development priorities, connecting citizens to new economic opportunities, and building prosperity across Massachusetts.”