Photo: Patrice Garvin
The Belmont Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to offer Shirley Town Administrator Patrice Garvin the vacant Belmont Town Administrator position after a public interview of the final pair of candidates on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at Town Hall.
The Selectmen anticipate approving a final contract with Garvin on Monday, Dec. 11 at its next meeting. There are reports that Garvin – who was a finalist to become town administrator in three other communities this year – is likely to have competing offers from other municipalities, which was one of the reasons the selectmen moved up by a week its vote to decide on which candidate to select.
A resident of Chelmsford, Garvin has been Shirley’s Town Administrator for the past four years, having been the executive assistant to the town manager in Groton previously. Garvin also has experience in town government as the chair and member of Chelmsford’s Finance Committee. She had her bachelors degree from Suffolk University and earned her masters in education and developmental and educational psychology from Boston College.
Also interviewed Tuesday was Kevin Sweet, Maynard’s town administrator, who along with Garvin was the last of 19 prospective candidates seen by a screening committee headed by School Committee member Kate Bowen. Both were described by Rick White of the search firm Groux-White Consulting as “represent[ing] the younger and rising stars in the profession.”
While the selectmen each said that both candidates would be outstanding administrators, the majority opinion was that Garvin demonstrated a grasp of the position more significant than just process and numbers.
“[Patrice] Garvin articulated a vision which I think is important,” said Selectman Adam Dash. “[She] came across to me as practical, foreright, persistent and those are qualities we need to go forward.”
“It wasn’t just a list of accomplishments; it was a statement of purpose and motivation as well as a quiet forcefulness that we can use,” said Dash.
Mark Paolillo, the senior selectman on the board, was impressed with Garvin’s detailed and insightful knowledge when answering financial questions, “because we are facing great financial challenges in the future.” Of the two candidates, Paolillo felt Garvin would be more successful in “finding ways to bring people together and unify the community” and “work collaboratively with departments and the school committee.”
“It was some of her nuisance responses … like growing in the position in Shirley, that tipped the scales for me,” said Paolillo.
“She did really really well [on difficult questions], the answers were really honest and didn’t sound canned. I feel like I know what we are getting if we hire her because of that,” said Dash.
While saying he was less sure about making a selection, Chair Jim Williams said he was not looking for a “fourth selectmen” but rather someone who will follow the direction of the board. While both were very capable of doing the job, “I don’t have a strong preference.” Williams ultimately voted to join his colleagues to make the decision unanimous.
With a low-key manner and a distinct Boston-regional accent, Garvin told the board “I always want to find a career where I would make peoples lives better,” and working in local government is where she “could see my efforts and my work in a very short period.”
She told the board as an administrator for the past four years in Shirley, she looks for common ground and finds some resolution to problems that come through her door.
Garvin said her practical experience she gained being in Shirley for the past four years was “well-rounded” from building up the town’s reserves, restructured town offices, and obtained millions in state and federal grants and funding. She described her part in revamping the Shirley Fire ambulance response from relying on mutual aid to staffing the department with EMTs and on the weekend which resulted in a positive revenue and reducing response times.
She noted that the most significant challenge in the job “is gaining the trust and respect of the board you’re working for.”
She also told board she has “three rules” when it comes to working with the selectmen: “You’re always informed. You’re never surprised. And one [selectmen] won’t know something the other two do.”
When asked what qualities she will bring to Belmont if hired, Garvin said after ten years in government, she continues to “push to know more.”
“What drives me is my failures as much as my success. I want to learn more and do better,” said “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying. And what I bring to everything I do is my full effort. If I don’t succeed with one thing, I’ll try another. I won’t give up until it’s done.”