By MAUREEN DOHERTY
NORTH READING — It’s no secret that the pandemic has disrupted the employment landscape throughout every sector of society. Coupled with record-breaking attrition that was already taking place pre-pandemic due to the rapid pace of retirements among the Baby Boom generation and it’s not surprising to learn of the many transitions that have affected all town departments throughout this past year.
These transitions have opened up opportunities to welcome new employees, to enable long-term employees to seek new positions and for department heads to reconsider their approach in how services are delivered to the public.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list of every position that has turned over in town, but does provide an overview of some of the changes the public will encounter in their daily interactions in the coming months.
Monday marked the last day of work for Mary Prenney who retired as Director of Elder Services after 17 years of leading the department and another five years prior to that as the assistant director to the late Edith O’Leary. According to Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto, two long-term employees in that department, administrative assistant Sherri Greer and outreach coordinator Sue Tilton, are quite familiar with the clientele and will be providing continuity of services during the transition while the search begins for Prenney’s replacement.
As was announced in October at Town Meeting, Town Clerk Barbara Stats will be retiring in February after 40 years of service to the town, including 24 years as Town Clerk. After such a long tenure, her retirement will mark a significant void in this department. Earlier in the spring there was another transition in the clerk’s office following the departure of Assistant Town Clerk Janet Murphy who left to pursue an opportunity as the Town Clerk in Watertown.
Murphy’s administrative assistant position “was posted and went through a screening process over the summer and Stephanie Connolly, who was the administrative assistant to the Board of Health, was selected to the position,” Gilleberto said.
“It is an administrative assistant position at the baseline but the Town Clerk has the ability to award the title of Assistant Town Clerk once they’ve determined that they have advanced in their performance of the position and level of responsibility,” the T.A. explained.
Long-time clerk Carol Ducrow remains in that role in the clerk’s office as well.
Connolly’s departure from the Board of Health created a vacancy in that department during a very busy year but Gilleberto was happy to report that another town employee, Chrissie Doolin, has been appointed to this full-time administrative assistant role. Doolin had been working part-time for the Conservation Commission as its administrative assistant which is a 16- to 19-hour per week position.
“We held on moving Stephanie to the town clerk’s office so we could advertise her position,” he said.
Also in the Board of Health office, Public Health Nurse Donna Hovey left the role in October after several months in that position so that she could continue to pursue her doctorate in nursing. Once again, Board of Health member and retired nurse Pam Vath has stepped up to fill the void in this role while the search is on for a replacement. “We had made it a full-time position because we felt we had to in order to attract the right candidate,” he said.
In Gilleberto’s own department, last spring Jane Brooks departed as administrative assistant and the Select Board’s recording secretary. Jennifer McNeil was hired to fill both roles.
Parks and Recreation
In August, Maureen Stevens retired as the Operations Director and Department Head of the Parks and Recreation Department. Following her departure, current Parks Director Marty Tilton “took on the department head responsibilities from Maureen,” Gilleberto said.
“The Operations Director responsibilities that Maureen had, we left as a stand-alone position and Maria Brown was promoted to that position on September 3. And that created a full-time vacancy for an administrative assistant in Parks and Recreation,” he said. Nancy Ursino remains in the role of Recreation programmer.
Subsequent to these changes, current Recreation Director Lynne Clemens recently announced her intention to retire effective in late March, so there will be additional changes coming in this department as well.
Also last spring, Joe Parisi was appointed to fill the vacancy as Director of the Department of Public Works, and Gilleberto has been pleased with his performance overall. However, another vacancy in the DPW was created when Marc Hamel left his position as Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds. It is being advertised for a 40-hour work week rather than 35 hours due to the responsibilities involved of ensuring that various buildings are opened and closed at early and late hours of the day. This is a position that works under the DPW Director.
In the Assessing Department, Paula Berry moved into the administrative assistant position formerly held by Deb Pothier, who retired earlier during pandemic. Berry’s position was filled in the fall by a new employee, Jessica Guarente.
Kristen Tusini was hired in the Finance Department to work as a finance secretary for the Treasurer/Collectors Office, he said.
Also vacant for many months has been the position of IT Director following the departure of Matt Cooper. Gilleberto said they did not get much of a response when it was first advertised. “It is not actively being advertised now but we will revisit it as we go through the budget process,” he said.
Presently, technician Brian Carter has been filling in as needed and the town has also been using some contracted services. “He is really good at helping to trouble shoot issues when they come up,” Gilleberto said of Carter.
In the Veterans’ Services Department, Catherine McGloughlin was hired in October as the new administrative assistant, a part-time role funded at Town Meeting in June to assist Veterans’ Director Sue Magner in delivering services to veterans and their dependents. This had been a role that Magner sought to be funded for many years.
Youth Services Director Danielle Masterson left that role in the late summer to pursue an opportunity at the Wilmington library. Another vacancy was created when Information Services/Reference Department Head ShanTil Yell left. Hired to fill that position was Eleanor Humphreys who grew up in town.