By Brett Peruzzi, Contributing Writer
Hudson – Town meeting will vote, May 1, whether to eliminate a residency requirement for Hudson’s executive assistant from the town charter.
Still living in town, one member of the 1978 charter commission that first penned that requirement has mixed feelings about the current change.
“That’s a tough one,” Mary-Lee King said in a recent interview with the Community Advocate. “What if [the new executive assistant] has to come all the way from Boston? There’s no guarantee they will be local.”
She added, though, “It’s not as big an issue today as it was back then.”
Hudson revisits charter as executive assistant retires
Hudson’s executive assistant effectively manages the day-to-day operations of town government. Tom Moses currently occupies the office. But he plans to retire this May.
That announcement has already triggered a months long search for a successor. During that search, a town contracted hiring consultant initially warned that Hudson’s requirement that executive assistants live in town might hamper the recruitment process.
“The residency requirement is a big deterrent to finding qualified candidates,” Selectman and Search Committee Chair John Parent said in recent statements, agreeing with the consultant.
Discussion pivots back to original charter commission
Throughout recent amendment talks, Select Board members and constituents alike have recalled the process of rewriting Hudson’s entire charter in 1978.
At that time, King remembers, an executive assistant residency requirement felt commonplace.
“The belief was that, if you lived in town, you were more likely to be aware of what was going on,” she said.
King added that she believed that all previous town managers had been residents. So, the requirement didn’t seem like an issue.
What was up for debate in 1978 was a question now considered generally settled — how much power should the executive assistant have?
“The real impetus for the charter change was that people thought the town manager had way too much power,” King explained. “I was the only one on the commission that wanted to keep the town manager strong. The whole idea that everyone else went in with was the idea that they wanted a complete change — a less powerful town manager.”
The commission ultimately compromised by simply renaming what was originally the town manager’s position. The executive assistant, in the end, she noted, has the same powers as a town manager in any other area community.
Hudson considers future charter changes
As Hudson may make one charter change, this spring, King and other town leaders point to other clauses of the document that may need attention in the near future.
Currently, only the he/him pronoun is used to describe the executive assistant position.
“The language should be changed now, obviously,” King affirmed, while noting that, like the original residency requirement, such language was standard in 1970s legalese.
Parent sees the same phrasing and echoes King. He also wants to see the “executive assistant” job title changed back to “town manager” to avoid confusion in future hiring processes.
To do all this, he hinted that Hudson may need to form a new charter review commission.
Amendment vote to take place, May 1
An appointed search committee presented executive assistant finalists to Selectmen, March 8. The Select Board then interviewed candidates eight days later, and entered into contract negotiations with current Spencer Town Administrator Thomas Gregory on March 22.
As Gregory moves into his office later in the spring, he may well oversee a new push to further amend the town charter.
Watching new debates with a unique perspective, King, meanwhile, is not certain how she particularly managed to persuade other charter commission members to abandon that effort to weaken the town manager position 43 years ago.
“There were a lot of late nights of discussion,” she recalled with a chuckle. “Maybe it was my negotiating skills.”