With Hadley HR chief leaving, Select Board weighs new combined post

STAFF FILE PHOTOWEB ONLY

STAFF FILE PHOTOWEB ONLY STAFF FILE PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 05-25-2024 4:01 PM

HADLEY — With Hadley’s third full-time human resources director leaving this week, and more support needed for staff at Town Hall, the Select Board is contemplating creating a new position combining administrative and personnel duties.

At Wednesday’s first Select Board meeting following the annual town election, in which board members had little discussion before voting Molly Keegan chairwoman, a conversation continued about duties that would be written into a job description for a combined assistant town administrator and human resources director position.

While the board has been talking about the idea of the new position this month as a way to give more support to Town Administrator Carolyn Brennan, it is taking on more urgency after Human Resources Director Troy Brin announced his departure, after serving in the role since last summer.

During his time in Hadley, Brin helped complete a wage study and assisted with collective bargaining with unions and an employee handbook.

Keegan said the new position is an opportunity to enhance services at Town Hall and to provide backup to Brennan for project management.

Such examples of hybrid positions have been presented at previous meetings and Brin has been putting these examples  together based on a draft provided by the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts Boston, existing labor market information, and reaching out to human resources professionals across the state.

Select Board member Jane Nevinsmith said she likes the primary purpose of the job being assistant town administrator, emphasizing that aspect, while appreciating it combines two roles.

Brin has already finished many of the major projects assigned to the office.

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Having an assistant town administrator is more important than the human resources job, said Select Board member David J. Fill II.

But because Brin is leaving, and the town has gone through multiple personnel directors, and that job requires expertise in the field, fellow member Randy Izer said human resources has to be prioritized.

“I think we need to place a pretty good emphasis on the human resources based on what we’ve been going through the last year-plus,” Izer said.

Brin succeeded Jennifer Trovato in the role last summer, after she took over for interim Deborah Radway in 2022. Radway had filled the position after Edward O’Connor, the first human resources director, was hired in 2019, but was then called to active duty in the Army Reserves.

Brennan said the new combined position will cost more than the $80,000 or so the human resources director is paid. “It’s gong to be something that is definitely an investment,” Brennan said.

With many positions in town government a challenge to fill right now, Brennan said, “You really want to bring somebody in with municipal knowledge.”

But Keegan said she hopes there will be suitable candidates interested in municipal government work who would be attracted to such a job.

The possibility of the new position comes as the town is putting together a government restructuring committee, which will examine whether Hadley should move to a strong town administrator. The town will soon begin recruiting volunteers to serve on this panel, with Keegan and Fill as the Select Board representatives on it.

Having a strong town administrator, if the town goes in that direction, would mean that person having more responsibility over hiring, firing and disciplining town employees, as well as over contracts and collective bargaining.

Should such a recommendation be made, it would likely be put to a vote by residents.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.