Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Shaffer close to signing deal to become Amherst town manager

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
February 28, 2006

VERNON - Town Administrator Laurence R. Shaffer has reached an agreement in principle with leaders in Amherst, Mass., clearing the way for him to become that town's manager during the summer.

Last week, members of Amherst's governing body, the Select Board, announced that they had reached a tentative five-year agreement with Shaffer, who has served as Vernon's town administrator since April 1999.

Shaffer, 57, confirmed today that he has a tentative agreement in place and that Amherst officials are in the process of conducting a criminal background check, which needs to be completed before the two sides can sign a deal.

According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Shaffer's new job would pay him $125,000 a year plus $7,000 for moving and mileage expenses.

Shaffer's salary in Vernon is $106,597.

The agreement in Amherst, which could be finalized within days, allows Shaffer to remain in Vernon through the end of June.

Although his present contract expires at the end of March, Mayor Ellen L. Marmer had said that she wanted Shaffer to stick around through July 1 and see the town through the 2006-07 budget approval process.

The man Shaffer is replacing, longtime Town Manager Barry Del Castilho, is expected to retire at the end of March.

According to the Gazette, Amherst will employ its finance director, John Musante, as interim town manager until Shaffer arrives.

Musante was one of three finalists for the town manager's job.

Meanwhile, Vernon already has begun the process of finding Shaffer's replacement.

On Sunday the town placed advertisements in regional publications including The Boston Globe and The New York Times.

The advertisement also is running in several professional trade publications, Marmer said Tuesday.

The deadline for applications is March 27.

Once all the applications are received, Marmer said, she will set up a multitiered group of Town Council members and residents to review the applications and help facilitate the interview process.

Ideally, Marmer said, she would like the new administrator to begin in mid-June, which would allow roughly two weeks of overlap between Shaffer and his replacement.

"I'm looking forward to having the right person chosen and working with that person," Marmer said, adding that she hopes the town would save money by not using a professional "head hunter" to find a new administrator. "We want to try to do this ourselves."

Among the requirements listed in the job description is at least six years of "increasingly responsible" experience in municipal administration.

The advertisement also states that the town administrator would be responsible for grant writing and working with state and federal agencies.

Because Shaffer has been proficient in these areas, Marmer said, she felt his replacement should be capable of continuing his work.

According to the advertisement, the new administrator's salary would be "negotiable," between $100,000 and $120,000, with an "excellent fringe benefit package."

Shaffer's interest in the Amherst job was revealed in December when he was chosen to be one of three finalists to replace the retiring Del Castilho, who has served the town for 23 years.

Shaffer was offered the job by town leaders in late January.

Because Amherst is home to a number of academic institutions, including the University of Massachusetts and Amherst College, Shaffer said he was attracted to the town's academic lifestyle.

Amherst, which has about 35,000 residents, is also larger than Vernon, which has about 30,000 residents.

Before coming to Vernon, Shaffer served as town administrator in Durham, N.H., beginning in April 1996.

Prior to working in Durham, Shaffer was assistant city manager/city assessor in Keene, N.H., from 1992 to 1996.

Originally from Herkimer, N.Y., Shaffer also worked as a city assessor and housing rehabilitation specialist in Oneonta, N.Y., the home of the State University of New York-Oneonta, from which he graduated in 1975 with a degree in social science education.

He earned his master's degree in public administration from the Nelson A. Rockefeller School of Public Administration and Policy at SUNY-Albany in 1986.

©Journal Inquirer 2006