Amherst town official tapped for Montague’s assistant town admin job




Staff Writer

Published: 05-25-2024 1:21 PM

MONTAGUE — The Selectboard voted unanimously this week to select Greenfield resident Athena O’Keeffe as its next assistant town administrator, taking over for Walter Ramsey when he assumes sitting Town Administrator Steve Ellis’ position on July 1.

The decision marks the end of the roughly six-month assistant town administrator search that came after Ellis announced in November his plans to step down at the end of the fiscal year and Ramsey was tapped to succeed him. Since then, the Assistant Town Administrator Hiring Committee has convened five times to solicit candidates and review more than 20 applicants.

After interviewing the final three candidates, committee Chair Dorinda Bell-Upp informed the Selectboard that O’Keeffe and Deerfield Assistant Town Administrator Christopher Nolan advanced as the final two candidates. She said the committee unanimously recommended O’Keeffe as its first choice for the role due to her experience working as council clerk in Amherst.

“Both candidates have strong reading and writing skills. Both have recently received master’s degrees from Suffolk University in public administration. Both have a lot of potential, but are newer to forward-facing positions and public administration,” Bell-Upp explained. “[O’Keeffe] has coordinated on policy development, worked with a variety of department heads and conducted public outreach. She also has management experience in the public sector. We’re confident that Athena will be a quick learner in the areas where she has a lack of direct experience. We’re also confident that she will be a committed community advocate.”

O’Keeffe, who had graduated only a day before her status as the top candidate was announced Monday, said she applied for the job while she was completing her finals. Working for Montague, she said, would allow her to work for a town that’s closer to her home in Greenfield.

“This opportunity arose and I just love Montague. ... I live in Greenfield and it feels like Montague is part of my community, and I think that serving the place you live is just satisfying in a way that another community isn’t. Amherst has been wonderful and challenging in many ways to work for and I’m really excited to put all of the skills that I’ve learned over the last three years to use,” O’Keefe said.

After sitting in on all three hiring interviews, Ellis said he believes O’Keeffe will make for “key member” of a skilled team that will take over after he leaves his post in July.

“I think that the hiring committee has made an outstanding recommendation, and I really do think that we’re trying to put together a great team,” Ellis said. “As I leave the role, [she is] exactly the kind of person we’d like to see.”

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Before the board voted unanimously to begin a period of contract negotiations and extend O’Keeffe a job offer, Ramsey echoed Ellis’ enthusiasm for the new hire.

“Athena interviewed really well and she seems to be a rising rock star in municipal administration out here, so I think we’d be lucky to have her on the team and I really look forward to working with her,” Ramsey said. “I think she’s going to help the Selectboard do great things.”

The Selectboard will vote on O’Keeffe’s contract at a future meeting after a period of negotiations.

Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at or 413-930-4429.