Photo: Belmont Town Administrator Patrice Garvin.
In a time of financial constraint and pandemic, Belmont Town Administrator Patrice Garvin received top marks from the Select Board during her annual review held at the board’s Sept. 13 meeting.
“One of the reasons I voted to hire Patrice was to get us to do things better and differently and not just continue the status quo and be a bean counter but to be a visionary and a leader,” said Adam Dash, Select Board chair. And while she has received her share of criticism – particularity in online forums – “it is a lot easier to just go with the flow than it is to change things. I think [Garvin] has changed things a lot since she’s been here and I think we’re better for it.”
“We live in an era of increasing suspicion of government, even in small town like Belmont, so helping to allay these fears has become an important requirement of the town administrator,” said Vice Chair Roy Epstein.
After the review, the Select Board awarded Garvin a 1.5 percent increase to her annual salary effective July 1 bumping it up to $193,400.
Garvin’s performance review consisted of a self evaluation and a number-based performance evaluation on all aspects of her role as the town’s chief administrative officer, according the Human Resources Director Shawna Healey.
Healey said Garvin’s overall rating was a 4.18 on a scale of one to five. The members also provided written reviews and areas of improvement in the coming year.
The public portion of the review including the scores and board’s written review can be found at the bottom of the article.
In his public comments Monday, Dash said that Garvin “is the best town administrator I’ve worked for in Belmont.”
“The times are tough, but she’s unflappable and is always focused on doing what is best for the town. We are lucky to have her recognized strengths include resiliency creativity, adaptivity financial acumen with a ‘can do’ attitude,” said Dash.
Epstein said that Garvin is an “outstanding” town administrator who manages an enormous number and variety of responsibilities for what she brings a wealth of experience, great intelligence and tremendous work ethic.
“[Garvin] in direct manner and working with the Select Board ability to attend to multiple pressing issues simultaneously proved success, proven success and winning outside grants, she did a spectacular job managing our COVID response, both operationally and financially.”
“There can be a torrent of criticism of the town administrator [as] changing an organization and institutional practices is an is inevitably controversial – nonetheless, it is her burden to deal with – and to find a positive resolution, Patricia is maturing in this area. It’s a difficult two way street, as she acknowledges in her self evaluation.”
Board Member Mark Paolillo reiterated his colleagues praise for Garvin’s strong work ethic as she is motivated to achieve good results while also acknowledging her strong support of all department heads and those who report to her who she “treats … with dignity and respect.”
Garvin “needs to improve her performance and public relations and communications to community leadership,” said Paolillo, as “there is a high level presently of mistrust amongst our town residents towards town administration and town and government to fiscal management.” That would include a need to develop a clear and timely understanding of budgets including overages and turn backs.
Garvin responded by thanking the board, the town’s department heads, Schools Superintendent John Phelan and everyone who works with her daily.
“It is my honor and privilege to work for the town of Belmont. I work very hard to come in every day with the attitude to improve the town in any way I can,” said Garvin.
Saying she welcomes the feedback both positive and negative as an opportunity to improve her work. ”I am someone who definitely always wanting to do better,” Garvin said.
Gavin also addressed the issue of growing public distrust of local government. “I think that it is very much on my mind, the mistrust that is in the community. Unfortunately, I do not think it’s indicative to Belmont. I talk to a lot of managers and administrators in Massachusetts, and we’re all struggling with similar issues and trying to convey to the public that trust, and to alleviate that suspicion that that I think is out there.”
“I will definitely work harder to make sure that the residents of the town can trust the board, the administration as it has been a challenge,” said Garvin. “The last year and a half has been very challenging to do the job itself and then to add a pandemic to it, it really does test the limits of patience, it tests your limits of staying positive and and trying to take that criticism and rise above it,” she said.
Garvin pointed to the relationships she made with the residents who volunteer on boards and committees “who come with pure selflessness to improve their town” and who she calls her “partners in crime” to improve the day-to-day lives of the citizens of Belmont, “which I know I come to work every day, aspiring to do.”