Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Budget. Dedicated to Amherst

It cannot be often that a document as important yet prosaic as a municipal budget comes with a dedication, but such was this case this month, as the plan governing Amherst's fiscal year 2017 was made public.

The budget prepared by Finance Director Sandy Pooler (in consultation with Town departments and committees, of course) and presented by Interim Town Manager Dave Ziomek bore a touching dedication to our Town Manager John Musante, whose sudden passing less than half a year earlier shocked the community.

John brought many skills and virtues to government, but it was not least his skill as the former Finance Director (one so highly accomplished that he did workshops for officials around the state, using Amherst as a model) that created the foundation of stability and calculability permitting him to lead us in major endeavors in other fields.

This year's budget presentation marked a transition in more ways than one: even as it commemorated John's passing, it reminded us of two other looming changes. John was known for making excellent appointments, because he had the wisdom and self-confidence to build a team of other strong and talented individuals. Among them was Finance Director Sandy Pooler, whom he brought here five years ago. The budget was presented on Sandy's last day at work here, as he prepared to return to the eastern part of the state to take up a new position as Deputy Town Manager of Arlington (the news report there provides an overview of his extensive experience and accomplishments). Meanwhile, Interim Town Manager Dave Ziomek, who made the formal budget presentation, prepared to return to his regular post as Assistant Town Manager and Director of Conservation and Development, as we awaited the arrival Temporary Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner and the start of a search for a regular Town Manager.

Looking back on the difficult past four months, and ahead to the hiring of a new regular Town Manager some six months from now, I am left with one thought. In the aftermath of John's tragic and unexpected death, I invariably heard two things from my fellow residents: first, expressions of deep sadness and shock at the news of John's passing, but invariably followed by a second statement: The Town is in excellent hands. You've got an excellent team in Town Hall, and we know everything is going to function smoothly.

Indeed it has. We have done very well under trying circumstances. John, Sandy, and Dave have set a very high standard for their successors.

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