SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 19, 2013

After mixed review, Andrews receives 2 percent raise

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — WENHAM — Selectmen have granted Town Administrator Mark Andrews a 2 percent merit raise, bringing his annual pay to $102,000.

The vote on Tuesday night was 2-0, with Selectman Jack Wilhelm abstaining. He said he wanted more time to review comments submitted from the public on Andrews’ job performance.

Selectmen Chairman Ken Whittaker said the raise is in Andrews’ contract if he meets certain performance goals. Selectmen gave Andrews a performance review at their last meeting.

There was no written report of the evaluation, but each selectman shared his thoughts at the meeting.

Whittaker said he received about 30 written comments from town residents about Andrews’ job performance, both positive and negative.

“I got a variety of comments ranging, quite frankly, from a two sentences ‘Get rid of the guy’ to three pages,” Whittaker said.

During the performance review, Wilhelm said many people in town told him that Andrews doesn’t respond to them in a “timely manner.” He added that while he is pleased with reports about the Finance Department’s current work, which is being done by a private firm, the situation could have been handled better. The town hired the firm to finish the fiscal 2013 budget season after former Finance Director Paula Bartlett resigned in December.

“Conversely, I think Mark deserves a great deal of blame for the implosion of this department last winter and spring,” Wilhelm said. “In my opinion, he was slow to recognize the problem and slow to put corrective measures in place.”

Selectman Patrick Wilson agreed with Wilhelm’s thoughts on Andrews’ responsiveness. He said Andrews needs to work on “communications and prompt and comprehensive follow-through.” He said he needs to delegate and work more closely with his administrative assistant on these issues.

“What I think is critical is we articulate a vision. We do not have separate silos of government,” Wilson said. “Where we are all a part of one organization. One team working toward a common mission, which is providing the highest quality of municipal services to the taxpayers in the most cost-effective way.”

Before the vote on Andrews’ raise, Whittaker apologized to Andrews if the review came across as being primarily negative. He said the review focused on areas in need of improvement.

“I am a big fan of Mark’s performance,” Whittaker said Tuesday. “I think he is doing a great job.”

Wilson mentioned many of Andrews’ accomplishments in his support for the merit raise, including a restructuring of the Finance Department using an outside firm and a smooth transition to the regional dispatch center in Middleton.

“I think settling of the labor contracts is an enormous accomplishment for the town, and the goodwill that has created between the administration and the departments is really a testament to a lot of the excellent skills Mark brings to the position,” Wilson said. “I think that Mark has helped us find ways to be innovative within our budget and to find ways to realize savings for the taxpayer.”

Andrews was hired in Wenham in March 2012 on an interim basis to replace outgoing Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren, who was hired in Marblehead. Andrews’ contract was extended for another year on May 21, as selectmen conduct a town administrator search, which was promised when Chelgren left.

Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at jphelps@salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.