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Brad Brothers inteviews for Palmer town manager position on Feb. 22.
Photo credit: MPact

PALMER — The Palmer Town Council voted on Feb. 26 to make native and current Plymouth Assistant Town Manager Brad Brothers the new Palmer town manager. The Town Council conducted interviews with the two finalists, Brothers and Hadley Town Administrator Carolyn Brennan, on Feb. 22.

Councilor Philip Hebert said both candidates were experienced but he leaned toward Brothers because he is a native of Palmer and said that his career path has been in service of moving back to the town. While Brennan had more experience in municipal leadership, Hebert said of Brothers, “You’ve got to garner experience somewhere.”

Councilor Karl Williams said that the transition of Brothers from an assistant town manager to the town manager was positive, as it meant, “They’re hungry for it. They’ll work hard.” He also said he had personal interactions with Brothers’ relatives and said they were a “nice family.”

While Hebert and Williams saw benefit in Brothers’s ties to the community, Councilor Mark Caci expressed concern about the candidate’s ability to be impartial due to those same ties. “There’s a lot more monitoring that will have to happen,” he said. Caci said that he had reached out to people in the community for their impressions. He said no negative comments were made about either candidate, but there was also “no one selling point” for either Brennan or Brothers.

Councilor Jessica Sizer weighed the benefits of each candidate. She noted that Brennan is more experienced and that she would be coming from a smaller community in which “you are responsible for wearing a lot of hats, getting hyper-involved in the needs of your departments.” She also pointed out Brennan’s managerial skills and her devotion to maintaining momentum on projects.

On the other hand, she said Brothers had “phenomenal financial management skills,” which she called “crucial” for Palmer. She also saw benefit in Brothers’s time in Plymouth, because she said, “We have a lot of the same problems that a bigger town has.” Both candidates are familiar with the area, because, while not from Palmer, Brennan lives in neighboring Wilbraham.

One concern from Councilor Matthew Lemieux was that Brothers would be coming from a town with almost four times the number of residents and a support staff of nearly 500 people. He would have to personally handle tasks that he has previously delegated to others. While Lemieux liked Brothers’ vision for Palmer, he said there are important challenges that would require focus before that vision could be implemented.

While Brothers has greater financial skills, he said Brennan’s people skills and ability to reach out to others with institutional knowledge would make up for what she lacked.

Hebert interjected that Brennan was coming from a town with a select board instead of a town council, but Sizer noted that both candidates were employed in towns with different forms of government than Palmer.

Town Council President Barbara Barry also compared the skill sets of the two candidates. While Brennan was “likable” with a “calming demeanor,” Barry said Brothers had an “extremely important” strong financial background. Like Hebert and Williams, Barry saw Brothers’ Palmer origins as a positive. She said he would understand the concerns and “perception” of residents.

With Councilor Robert Lavoie absent, the body voted 5-1 in favor of Brothers as their next town manager.

Only Caci voted against the choice. Brothers will begin as town manager in April.

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