BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — The corner office at Salem City Hall is a long way from Beacon Hill and farther still from Washington, D.C.
But Mayor Kim Driscoll can empathize with both President Barack Obama and Gov. Deval Patrick on at least one subject: the exodus of top aides and administrators.
While the names aren’t as well-known as Hillary Clinton and Timothy Geithner, the U.S. treasury secretary who is reported to be leaving soon, the loss of top administrators is felt just as keenly on the homefront.
Ten days ago, Jason Silva, the mayor’s chief aide and her former campaign manager, confirmed that he is leaving next month to become executive director of the Salem YMCA.
That news followed on the heels of another major announcement, the departure of Finance Director Rich Viscay, who helped steer the city out of a financial mess several years ago.
Richard Rennard, director of the Department of Public Services, retired in November. That was preceded in September by the exit of Doug Bollen, who ran one of the city’s largest departments, Parks, Recreation and Community Service, which includes the Council on Aging.
While most of the departures were unexpected, and all will be hard to fill, none is being cast as a sign of trouble in the Driscoll administration. It appears to be more a case of talented young people moving on as the mayor enters the final year of her second term, according to several people contacted by The Salem News.
All four departing employees had worked for the city at least seven years, or since Driscoll took office. With the exception of Rennard, who retired, the others are seen to be moving to new opportunities and challenges.
There is no doubt, however, that they are leaving demanding city jobs with long hours that often required them to deal with citizen complaints. In time, that can take its toll.
“Truthfully, with the (budget) cuts, people just get more and more stuff thrown at them,” said Jim Moskovis, former chairman of the Neighborhood Advisory Council who has close ties to the mayor. “People think it’s an easy job working for the city, but it’s not. And, in management, everything comes back at you.”
One person saw the resignations as “coincidence.”
“They’ve all been there seven or eight years,” said Beth Debski, a longtime Salem resident who has worked for the cities of Salem, Everett and Malden. “That seems to be sort of a magic number where people tend to move around.”
Viscay has been named chief financial officer for the city of Everett, while Bollen, who formerly worked for the Lynn Boys & Girls Club, took a top post at the Salem Boys & Girls Club.
“(Driscoll) has had some of these people in key positions for a good long time,” said former Salem City Councilor Matt Veno. “Those are some pretty demanding leadership positions in the city. ... I think she’s been fortunate to have them that long.”
Driscoll said she is not surprised that some of the city’s best and brightest are moving on.
“Jason and Rich are both young, smart and capable individuals who have done outstanding work for the city,” she said. “But they’ve been here seven years. ... I’m also happy for them. ... When you’re working with young, capable people and give them an opportunity to grow and thrive, eventually they’re going to grow and thrive somewhere else ...
“I’ll certainly miss all those folks. They did tremendous work for us.”
The mayor added that there is “something exciting about bringing new people on board.”
Driscoll has named a replacement for Bollen and expects to name a new DPW director soon.
The searches for a finance director and chief aide are under way.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.