It’s official: Belchertown’s request to create town manager position OK’d by state

Belchertown Town Hall

Belchertown Town Hall file photo

By Emilee Klein

Staff Writer

Published: 03-28-2024 10:50 AM

BELCHERTOWN — After nearly a year of waiting, Belchertown finally has a town manager.

On March 8, Gov. Maura Healey signed legislation to create the first-ever town manager, replacing the long-used town administrator form of government. The change, approved by Town Meeting last year, will speed up municipal actions by shifting some daily operations from the Select Board to the town manager’s office.

“There’s so much activity now in the local government that it makes sense to shift some of the daily operations into this office instead of having the Select Board in charge of certain things,” Town Manager Steve Williams said. “It doesn’t make sense to have to wait for a meeting to have contracts signed.”

Unlike a town administrator, a town manager has the authority to act on certain issues without waiting for the Select Board’s approval. The town manager can hire and fire most municipal employees, sign contracts or payment warrants, pay bills and use appropriated budget expenditures. The title allows Williams to manage his department activity and employees.

The Select Board, however, still holds most of the power over town decisions. The board will continue to oversee major changes to personnel like department heads, negotiate contracts and approve budgets for Town Meeting.

Williams announced the official creation of the position at the last Select Board meeting on March 18. According to the legislation, the town manager will be appointed by the Select Board for a three-year term. When Williams signed the contract, he was simultaneously appointed to town manager.

“The former town administrator had a role more in line with a town manager position and when I assumed the position, the Select Board reviewed the pending legislation and delegated the authority to me,” Williams said.

The new position does not come with a pay raise.

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While some bylaws will need to change language from “town administrator” to “town manager,” Williams’s former duties as town administrator closely mirror his new responsibilities. The transition should be seamless.

“The last nine months we’ve already been working in that capacity so I don’t think people will notice any change. I’m looking forward to continuing my service to the residents of the town of Belchertown,” he said.

Emilee Klein can be reached at eklein@gazettenet.com.