Thursday, July 18, 2024
Louis A. DePasquale enters Sullivan Chamber at City Hall. On Thursday city councillors voted 9-0 to make him the next city manager. (Photo: John Hawkinson)

Louis A. DePasquale enters Sullivan Chamber at City Hall last week. On Thursday city councillors voted 9-0 to make him the next city manager. (Photo: John Hawkinson)

The City Council has selected Louis A. DePasquale unanimously to be the next city manager. The vote came at 6:55 p.m. today at a special meeting, after nearly 90 minutes of speeches.

“It’s a dream come true,” said DePasquale, the current assistant city manager for fiscal affairs, reached by phone after the meeting.

DePasquale was originally up against two other candidates: Paul J. Fetherston, an assistant city manager from Asheville, N.C., and Robert “Jay” Ash Jr., the state’s secretary for housing and economic development. Ash announced he was withdrawing his candidacy Wednesday, leaving the council to choose between DePasquale and Fetherston.

In a ranking of candidates published by the city Tuesday, Fetherston was ranked 72.5, DePasquale at 71 and Ash at 62.5 out of a maximum score of 81. The rankings were produced by three panels of 27 city staff and others who interviewed the candidates and ranked them from one to three, with 1 being “Lacking,” 2 being “Qualified,” 3 being “Superior” and 2.5 being allowed as “bridging” between the labels of “Qualified” and “Superior.”

Thursday’s special meeting began with an explanation from City Solicitor Nancy E. Glowa explaining the release of the numeric rankings. City councillor David Maher, who led the manager search process, had initially said he anticipated release of a summary of public comments received during the process, but then announced at Monday’s council meeting that the Law Department advised the city the public and staff summaries would not be released.

But the city received a public records request for the summaries the same day. “We looked carefully at the public process and determined that there were no exemptions that applied. Therefore, those documents were public records,” Glowa said. The request was filed by this reporter, although the city decided to publish the records on its own website rather than furnish the documents directly to the requester.

Paul J. Fetherston, seen at a Sept. 21 forum with the City Council, received the highest marks in interview rankings. (Photo: John Hawkinson)

Paul J. Fetherston, seen at a Sept. 21 forum with the City Council, received the highest marks in private interview rankings. (Photo: John Hawkinson)

Councillors state positions

After Glowa’s explanation and public comment from two residents, councillors went around the room, stating their thoughts on the candidates and expressing their preference. A simple majority vote of the nine-member council is all that is required to select a city manager.

The first four were nearly unequivocal in their support for DePasquale and the process: Leland Cheung, Craig Kelley, Marc McGovern and Tim Toomey.

Next was Nadeem Mazen, who was on the preliminary screening committee that produced the three city manager finalists. He expressed concerns about the process, although not the candidate, saying he felt not enough money had been allocated for the search, resulting in a lack of diversity: all three finalists were white men. Mazen suggested he felt the consultants should have conducted “headhunting” or targeted recruitment nationwide, not simply within Massachusetts.

Still, Mazen went on to praise DePasquale for his open-door policy, adding: “I like his gracious spirit.”

Jan Devereux followed Mazen, said she had been doing a lot of thinking and had trouble sleeping this week. She expressed hope that the city would have the “courage to get out of our comfort zone – the courage to question our priorities.”

“Until yesterday I had intended to vote for a candidate I thought would help us,” she said, leaving the candidate unidentified but saying the process had “failed to yield us a candidate from the outside that I think we can trust with these big opportunities.” Then Devereux expressed her support for DePasquale.

Robert “Jay” Ash Jr., seen talking with a resident last week, dropped out of consideration for city manager. (Photo: John Hawkinson)

Robert “Jay” Ash Jr., seen talking with Arlington’s Alexandra Lee, dropped out of consideration for city manager. (Photo: John Hawkinson)

Dennis Carlone spoke next, saying he had a working relationship with Ash, was highly impressed with him and valued an outside perspective – DePasquale being a consummate insider, having risen through the ranks at City Hall since being hired there in 1975. Carlone said he heard whispers that Ash “was not good to people, but what I saw as a lowly consultant refutes those comments.”

“I told Louie on Friday that I was going to vote for someone else first – ‘But Louie, you’re going to win, that’s pretty obvious,’” Carlone said, before expressing his support for DePasquale.

Next, Maher and Mayor E. Denise Simmons praised DePasquale. “He has demonstrated this is the right move for him and the right move for us,” Maher said.

Simmons closed out the remarks, saying she wanted “our next city manager to be as aggressive as possible working around issues of affordable housing … I want our next city manager to be open to new ideas … I will be voting for Louis DePasquale.”

Toomey moved to offer the position to DePasquale, and the council passed it unanimously.

The vote was followed by a vote to appoint Deputy City Manager Lisa Peterson as acting city manager until contract negotiations were complete with DePasquale, with Peterson getting an additional $1,000-per-week stipend above her current salary.

Maher moved to contract with attorneys Elizabeth Valerio and John Foskett, of Deutsch Williams, to conduct negotiations. When Mazen questioned the process by which the firm was proposed, Maher explained that these attorneys had been used by the city in the past for city manager and school superintendent salary negotiations. The motion passed unanimously.

Finally, Toomey moved to make final all votes the council had taken, removing the possibility of a later filing of reconsideration. That motion passed unanimously as well.