WILLIAMSTOWN — Winter is coming, their road foreman is leaving and members of the Select Board were warned Monday night the search for Ed Farnham’s successor has thus far yielded underwhelming results.
Despite advertising on multiple fronts, including the Vermont League of Cities and Towns’ classified section, Town Manager Jackie Higgins told board members she doesn’t have a stack of applications to show for it. She has one.
Higgins, who delivered that message during the board’s latest in-person meeting, said one town resident did apply for Farnham’s job by Friday’s deadline. The resident isn’t currently employed by the town, which is weeks away from losing its veteran road foreman.
Farnham, who joined the town’s road crew on Oct. 16, 1989, will retire on Oct. 2 — capping a 31-year career, much of which was spent as local road foreman.
With winter approaching Farnham’s looming retirement took on added significance given the state of a search that hadn’t produced the hoped-for results.
It wasn’t for lack of trying. Higgins said the position was advertised in newspapers, social media and other online options — like VLCT and Vermont Local Roads, which have classified sections for municipal employees.
“It’s posted all over town, it’s on the Facebook pages, it’s been well advertised,” she said.
Part of the problem, Higgins surmised, is Williamstown isn’t the only community looking for help.
“The amount of openings out there on highway departments is just mind-boggling,” she said, noting Barre, Braintree, Brookfield, Chelsea and Bristol were among the communities advertising at the same time as Williamstown was.
That list is getting longer. Middlesex is now looking for a road foreman. So is Johnson, which is advertising a road crew position as well.
In Williamstown, board members said they were uneasy vetting a single candidate to serve as the working supervisor of the town’s five-member road crew.
“What if this one person isn’t a good fit … or isn’t qualified?” asked board member Jasmin Couillard, who seemed not to know the name of the lone applicant.
Chairman Rodney Graham said the position should be re-advertised.
“We need to take the time to find a qualified person,” he said, suggesting the process shouldn’t be rushed because of an approaching seasonal shift.
Graham said road construction is winding in down and he remained hopeful the position could be filled before wintry weather arrives. If for some reason that doesn’t happen, he acknowledged the road crew would be shorthanded and the town might need to recruit help until a new foreman is hired.
“We can probably keep the roads plowed and sanded through the winter,” he said.
Selectman Matthew Rouleau agreed, wondering whether a position that was created to provide part-time summer help could be extended if need be.
Higgins said that wasn’t possible because no one applied for that position and it was never filled.
Still, Rouleau said he favored extending the search in hopes of finding someone with a résumé that matches the job description.
“We need a working foreman who can manage a crew and can get people to do what needs to be done,” he said.
“Without making people quit,” Couillard added.
Farnham more than satisfied those requirements for many years, and board members agreed rushing to replace him would be a mistake. They instructed Higgins to re-advertise the position and continue the search.
When there is a suitable pool of candidates, Higgins said she and Graham would narrow the list and make a recommendation to the board.