Photo: Jim Palmer before the Light Board.
The Belmont Light Board announced Monday, July 31, that it would not extend an offer for a new contract to Belmont Light General Manager Jim Palmer.
The decision by the three member board – the Light Board is made up of the Board of Selectmen – was made after an hour-long executive session.
“The parties have reached a mutual understanding that the general manager’s contract will not be renewed,’ said Board Chair Jim Williams reading from a statement. A severance agreement and a possible part in the transition to find a new general manager was provided to Palmer.
The decision came two weeks after a contentious meeting between the board and Palmer during the general manager’s performance review which revealed a growing chasm between Palmer and other department heads in town.
“It was time for a change,” Board member Mark Paolillo told the Belmontonian. “It was the right breaking point with the contract up and the substation complete.”
“We need a general manager that is willing to work with the town and collaborate with department heads and because of that change was necessary,” he said.
An emotional Palmer told the board that he took over the general manager’s position seven years ago, Belmont Light “was in turmoil” and he accepted the job to protect his fellow workers. “I wasn’t taking the job for me but for the employees,” he said.
Palmer was the Light Department’s director of operation when in October 2010 he took over for Tim Richardson who was pressured to resign after irregularities in the department.
“Everything I’ve done has been being to the betterment of the town of Belmont” and that Belmont Light is now “like a jewel and you don’t want to lose it.” He recalled the construction of the new Blair Pond substation which will meet the town’s electrical needs for nearly 40 years as “the pinnacle” of his time as manager but the “stress of that project probably led to my demise, and that’s fine. I’m OK with that.”
After the brief meeting, Palmer told the Belmontonian that the department had a lot of positive accomplishments in the nearly seven years since he was named interim manager, including the difficulties of building and then selling the new substation. Palmer reiterated that the stress of the work did create problems with others official in town, “at the end of the day, there is only so much you can do.”
“You can’t dance with everybody,” said Palmer.
“I did the best I could do but … people want a fresh start,” he said. “And if you want a fresh start, you replace the top executive. It happens all the time in business. That’s what it is.”
Palmer said all his memories in Belmont had been good ones, and it has been a “learning experience. And I’m going to take what I’ve learned with me and applying it where ever I may end up.”