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SOUTHAMPTON — After interviewing two candidates on Jan. 14 the Selectboard offered the top job, town administrator, to Scott Szczebak.

With Ed Gibson’s retirement scheduled at the end of 2023, last August the Selectboard hired Community Paradigm Associates, an employment consultant, to help find and hire a new administrator. Since August, Szczebak has been employed as the director of human resources for the city of Lawrence.

In October, 15 applications were received for the position. Eight were qualified, but six withdrew from consideration, including one of three finalists. According to Bernard Lynch, founder and CEO of Community Paradigm, the withdrawal of finalists, which Southampton has had to contend with in the past, is a sign of the difficulty of finding experienced, competent people for municipal positions. Hiring in Western Massachusetts has added difficulties since there are fewer homegrown candidates in less populated areas.

Feedback during the hiring process, when community members were offered a forum to talk about the qualities desired in a new administrator, revealed that communication skills and working with others are top priorities. That’s what Szczebak anticipates the most.

“I think communication is big,” Szczebak said. “I would like to get out into the community. I’m excited to get to know people, work with the elected officials, work with the appointed officials and the employees, the volunteers. There’s lots of different levels involved. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most.”

Szczebak has worked in human resources since 2008, including a nine year stint as director of hiring for the town of Wellesley. He has a law degree from Western New England University and considers himself “a Western Mass. guy.” The new position in Southampton will be a return to his roots in the area.

The Palmer resident is married to Carly, who is expecting to deliver their second child any day now. Szczebak hopes to shorten his commute and spend more time with his family, well aware as he is of the challenges of being a town administrator. After working in different towns and cities, large and small, he knows that most municipalities deal with the same problems.

“The last five years have been extraordinarily challenging,” Szczebak said. “Balancing budgets … they all face the same challenges [and] financial issues are always at the top of the list. From a personnel standpoint, recruiting and retaining employees has been really difficult the last few years.”

Szczebak acknowledged the difficulties, in both cities and towns, created by the most recent police reform act, which requires part-time police officers receive full-time certification. He commented on a newspaper article, published last week, that itemized how the city of Springfield wrestles with difficulties in police hiring.

“We really relied on reserve officers or special police officers or part-timers,” Szczebak said. “We’re pretty understaffed right now in Lawrence. Not being able to use part-timers, that’s a little bit more difficult.”

Szczebak pointed to Southampton’s strength in offering good government services. Getting the potholes filled and having effective schools are the services most residents hope to see prioritized. The day to day, door to door services, Szczebak said, are the ones that really count. That’s true in most every community, no matter the size.

The incoming administrator read the town’s master plan and other reports. Public safety and internet access are two key services in town. Szczebak doesn’t see the regional school staffing as a problem unique to Southampton.

“I don’t think it’s a Southampton problem,” Szczebak said. “It’s a really difficult time right now for municipalities and school departments. That’s something I’d have to dive a little bit more into.”

No date was announced for Szczebak’s first day on the job in Southampton Town Hall. Outgoing Town Administrator Ed Gibson suggested in an email it would be at least a month before Szczebak steps into the position.

dpruyne@thereminder.com | + posts