BARRE — The Granite City’s designated downtown organization will soon be shopping — again — for an executive director after opting to fill the vacant position on an interim basis.
Unable to continue operating without someone at the helm and unwilling to make another job offer after three were turned down, the Barre Partnership board has agreed to regroup, reorganize and re-launch a search on the heels of the one that finally fizzled in February.
It isn’t optimal, and it’s a little awkward because it required the board’s president, Jeffrey Tuper-Giles, to resign in order to accept the interim job he applied for on a permanent basis last year. Tuper-Giles, who also serves on the City Council, has been doing the job part-time since Josh Jerome stepped down last September, but all agreed that informal arrangement was insufficient.
Tuper-Giles announced the transition this week, days after the partnership’s board approved a plan that precipitated him stepping down and immediately stepping up.
Weeks away from launching the “Reynolds Inn” in the newly restored Reynolds House, Tuper-Giles said he agreed to serve as interim executive director while the board readies for a search it hopes will end better than the last one did.
Three candidates turned down job offers — decisions that were driven in part by the proposed compensation package.
In retrospect, Tuper-Giles said it was probably a mistake not to advertise a salary range for the position that attracted 10 applicants with widely different levels of experience. He said the board is considering rectifying that before advertising the position it now hopes to fill by mid-July.
Board members sensed money could be an issue in January when they floated the idea of securing additional municipal contributions for the organization during a joint meeting of the City Council and the Barre Town Select Board.
At the time, members David Gold and Caitlin Corkins predicted hiring their preferred candidate — one they believed could take the downtown organization to the “next level” — would require a compensation package that was significantly more generous than Jerome’s when he left.
They were right.
The top candidate turned down the subsequent job offer and so did the “business as usual” backup. Though specific details of Jerome’s compensation package were never released, board members indicated it was roughly $50,000 a year without benefits.
The vast majority of the partnership’s roughly $65,000 annual budget comes from the city. The town contributes $2,000, and officials in both communities weren’t prepared to come up with the additional $40,000 that Gold and Corkins said would likely be needed to land a quality candidate.
Since then Mayor Lucas Herring acknowledged there have been some rumblings the city might not be getting what it’s paying for. The partnership plays a pivotal role in organizing the Barre Heritage Festival, the summer series of concerts in the park and other events some feared would be neglected if the position remained vacant much longer.
Herring said the appointment of Tuper-Giles as interim executive director has quelled those concerns at a crucial time of year.
“We want to make sure things get done,” he said.
The partnership’s board approved the plan late last week losing one of its five remaining members in the process.
In order to take the interim job, Tuper-Giles had to resign as both president and a voting member of the board that includes Gold, Corkins, Michael Waggoner and Cynthia Duprey.
The board has not yet reorganized, and Gold said final arrangements for the transition described by Tuper-Giles would not be made until next Thursday.
“That is the path we’re going down, but we have not crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s,” he said.
Gold said the absence of an executive director was starting to show, and carrying the vacancy while re-launching the search was not a viable option given the work that needs to be done.
“We do recognize it’s really important to not be a vacuum,” he said.
Gold said tapping Tuper-Giles as an interim director will buy the board time to conduct a thoughtful search.
“We’re committed to finding the right candidate who can bring their experience and expertise to bear for the betterment of Barre,” he said.