, Salem, MA

April 24, 2013

New selectman officially joins Wenham board

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — WENHAM — Jack Wilhelm has officially joined the Board of Selectmen.

Wilhelm, 70, defeated Selectman Molly Martins with 578 votes over Martins’ 267 votes in the town’s annual election on April 11 for a seat on the three-member board.

He jumped right into action, nominating fellow Selectman Ken Whittaker as chairman. The board unanimously approved Whittaker’s nomination. Selectman Patrick Wilson will serve as vice chairman and Wilhelm as secretary.

“We would like to say thank you to our outgoing chair, Molly Martins, for her years of service,” Wilson said.

Wilhelm will also be the board’s point person to interim Town Administrator Mark Andrews for a plan to redevelop the town’s website.

As a former member of the Finance Committee, Wilhelm asked several questions about the town’s Finance Department and plans for a “discretionary spending freeze” on office supplies and equipment until the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Andrews said department heads are being asked to defer spending until July 1. The Fire Department will still have to fund on-call firefighters, he said.

“Given the low level of reserve fund, I think it is around $5,500, I would appreciate a report in each of our subsequent selectmen meetings about where we stand in terms of where we are going to end up at the end of the year,” Wilhelm said.

Whittaker agreed with Wilhelm’s idea, and Andrews said he will be able to provide the requested reports.

The board also heard a recommendation to hire Leslie Davidson as a part-time Finance Department assistant. She will mostly be involved with payroll activities to take the burden off Treasurer/Collector Caroline Johnson, Andrews said.

“It is my intent to get Leslie up and moving forward,” Andrews said. “She is a part-time, hourly employee that will work very hard to make sure we can get some assistance to the treasurer/collector, Caroline Johnson.”

Andrews said there is a plan to hire another part-time Finance Department employee in the near future.

During his campaign, Wilhelm, said the town’s Finance Department is in “disarray” and vowed to make it a top priority to hire back a full-time finance director, rather than continuing to use an outside consulting firm.

Wilhelm is senior vice president and chief financial officer of Emerson Hospital.

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