Select Board Gives Garvin Top Marks In Annual Review, Acknowledging Growing Public Criticism Of Government

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.”

Public Meeting On Federal COVID Funds And State Aid Set For Wednesday, March 31

Photo: Poster to the meeting

The $8.6 million Belmont will receive from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan has been the topic of a heated debate ever since it was signed into law by President Biden on March 11.

In one corner are those who are attempting to defeat a $6.2 million Proposition 2 1/2 override who see the money filling town coffers with more than enough funds to render the override moot.

On the other side, proponents of the override contend that most of the cash is restricted to reimbursing town revenue lost due to COVID-19 and can’t be used to as a one-time stop gap for the town’s structural deficit.

And in the past three weeks, “I am seeing some things that are being misreported in regards to those numbers,” Town Administrator Patrice Garvin told the Select Board Monday, March 29.

In an attempt to provide a clearer picture of the funds and how they can be used for, the Financial Task Force II and Warrant Committee are inviting the public to a virtual presentation to share the latest information regarding the new Federal Aid Bill and also provide an update on projected state aid in the coming fiscal year 2022.

When: Wednesday, March 31
Time: 7 p.m.
Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87434286149

Questions will be taken at the conclusion of the presentation period
through the Q&A function. The meeting facilitator will inform those
attending when questions can be submitted.

Town Adminstrator Re-Ups ‘Til 2024 With New Contract

Photo: Patrice Garvin

With enthusiastic backing from the Bemont Select Board, Town Administrator Patrice Garvin will be sticking around Town Hall for a few more years.

The town’s chief administrative officer was offered a new three-year contract commencing Jan. 15, 2021 at the Select Board’s Monday, Oct. 19 meeting. The agreement came after a month-long review process and negotiations during which the Chelmsford resident received praise for her resourcefulness, work ethic, and organizational skills from the three-member board.

“You could not put more effort into this job and I think she is as conscientious and as smart as they come doing this type of work,” said Board Chair Roy Epstein.

Garvin was sworn in as Belmont’s first female town administrator in Jan. 16, 2018 after a long search to find a replacement for David Kale, who served for four years.

Under the new contract, Garvins’s base pay will increase from her current $181,778.69 to $190,500 on July 1, 2021. Garvin will receive annual increases of a minimum two percent or the general pay increase for department heads, which ever is greatest.

In addition, board will hold annual performance reviews on May 1 wih possible merit increases to the base salary. As part of the performance review, Garvin and the Select Board will define the goals for the next fiscal year that they determine necessary for the Town, and the Board shall further establish a relative priority among those goals.

In her benefits package, Garvin will see her annual vacation leave increase from four to five weeks and she’ll have the standard 12 holidays including a “floating holiday” with pay to be used at any time during the calendar year. And effective July 1, 2021, the Garvin will be allowed to sell back to the town each year a maximum of 80 hours of vacation time. The town will make a $625 per month car allowance, which will be taxable.

Town Administrator Nixes Own Pay Raise As Town Faces Big Budget Shortfall

Photo: Patrice Garvin, Belmont Town Administrator

In a move that took many by surprise, the Select Board approved Town Administrator Patrice Garvin’s request that she not be paid her expected annual salary increase.

The amendment to Garvin’s contract is “in response to the significant budgetary shortfalls as a result of the unanticipated COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the press release from the town.

Garvin’s gesture comes two-weeks before the Belmont Town Meeting where members will be presented the fiscal 2021 budget that reflects a 25 percent reduction in state aid. In addition, the town’s Financial Task Force’s initial projections of the fiscal ’22 budget has the town suffering a one-year structural deficit of between $10 to $13 million.

Garvin was expected to receive on July 1 a two percent increase over her base salary of $189,300 or the general pay hike for department heads, which ever was higher.

Garvin’s action won praise from the Board.

“I’d just like to note that this is what leadership looks like. In coming from the town administrator, it makes a very large statement,” said Select Board’s Adam Dash.

With a significant financial challenge waiting in fiscal 2022, Garvin “recognizes she can’t ask employees of the town to do anything that she isn’t willing to do herself,” said member Tom Caputo.

Selectmen OK Pay, Merit Hike for Town Administrator

Photo: Patrice Garvin, Belmont’s town administrator

After receiving a positive job evaluation two weeks ago, the Belmont Board of Selectmen at its April 22 meeting increased Belmont’s Town Administrator Patrice Garvin’s paycheck so she’s a bit closer to what her peers in town government are taking home.

In addition to salary and merit raises for Garvin, the town administrator presented a list of goals for this coming fiscal year, according to the town’s Human Resources Director Jessica Porter

The selectmen provided Garvin, who began her tenure in Belmont in January 2018, a two percent cost of living increase and two percent merit payment retroactive to July 1, 2018 (the first day of the fiscal year 2019) and an identical pay and merit package hike effective this July 1.

In addition, the board increased the town administrator’s vehicle allowance from $2,400 to $7,500 as of July 1 to assist her daily commute from her Chelmsford home.

Garvin’s total compensation package on July 1 will be approximately $189,300. Her starting compensation was $170,400.

The final package still leaves Garvin behind the average compensation of $206,450 for town administrators and city managers of 14 comparable nearby municipalities, according to an analysis by Porter.

Garvin presented the board with her goals and their subsequent objectives for the coming year. They include providing financial leadership, improving the overall effectiveness and efficiency of town government and promoting economic development.

The complete list of goals and objectives are below:

GOAL 1:  Finance/Budget

The Town Administrator shall work closely with the Selectmen, Warrant Committee, Capital Budget Committee, Town Treasurer and Town Accountant in providing financial leadership, to provide a balanced budget to Town Meeting.

Objectives:

  1. Work with the Superintendent to develop two operating budgets for FY21. One with an override and one without.
  2. Continue to work with Finance Team to develop five year budget forecasts.
  3. Work with the Financial Task Force II to assist them in providing the Board of Selectmen Financial recommendation.
  4. Seek out grants and other funding sources that will take pressure off of the operating budget.

GOAL 2:  Operations/Service Delivery

The Town Administrator shall strive to establish a positive working environment with employees, to ensure the best delivery of services to the residents of Belmont. 

Objectives:

  1. Continue to inform and educate staff through department head meetings, and through moral building exercises.
  2. Continue to conduct reviews for all non-union employees.
  3. Support the HR Director in negotiating successor agreements with collective bargaining units.
  4. Work with the departments to ensure that the most productive, cost efficient services are being provided to the residents.
  5. Assist with shepherding major building projects to completion (i.e., Belmont High School Project, DPW Building, Police Station, etc.).

GOAL 3:  Open and Transparent Government

The Town Administrator shall keep the selectmen and citizens informed of governmental activities and strive to improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of Town government.

Objectives:

  1. Maintain that all materials are made public on the town website; better utilize other digital resources; keep all other web content current.
  2. Ensure that all selectmen minutes are up to date and approved in a timely manner.
  3. Establish a way to continue to use social media to disseminate information.

GOAL 4:  Economic Development

The Town Administrator shall work to promote economic development.

Objectives:

  1. Work with the Business Study Group to provide the final deliverable of their charge.
  2. If an Economic Development Committee is formed work with that committee and the Business Study Group to foster ways to improve on what has been identified.
  3. Continue to work and build relationships with the business community.

GOAL 5: Public Communication

The Town Administrator shall be an active participant in the Belmont Community.

Objectives:

  1. Attend community events as time allows.
  2. Continue working with committees/boards and elected officials to advance projects in town.
  3. Continue to work with Belmont Media.
  4. Continue to be open to all residents’ concerns and connect them to the town departments that will assist.

GOAL 6: Personal and Professional Growth

The Town Administrator shall pursue professional development opportunities. 

Objective:

  1. Attend professional meetings, seminars and conferences including the ICMA, MMA annual conference and regional meetings. 
  2. Apply to become a candidate under the ICMA Certified Managers program.
  3. Continue to reach out to neighboring communities and to identify areas of possible regional efforts.

Lickety Split: New Town Administrator Secures $30K In State Funding In Her First Week

Photo: (from left) Patrice Garvin, Mark Paolillo, Jim Williams, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, State Rep. Dave Rogers, Adam Dash.

The Board of Selectmen’s Room at Belmont Town Hall was packed Tuesday, Jan. 30 with town and public safety officials, staff and residents for the dual purposes of greeting the state’s Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and to recognize the town being the 327th grant recipient to join the state in supporting “best practices.” 

Polito and Board of Selectmen Chair Jim Williams signed the Community Compact agreement, a voluntary, mutual agreement in which cities and towns choose to implement method or techniques that reflect needed areas of improvement which the Commonwealth helps accomplish by providing grants, resources, and incentives. 

Belmont will use a total of $30,000 in grants to develop a set of formal financial policies and practices and create a long-range financial forecasting model which could be used to review pensions and other retirement obligations.

“It’s a hallmark of the cooperation between state and local government that is so important,” said State Rep. Dave Rogers of the state program that dates back to January 2015.

But the state funds would likely have stayed on Beacon Hill if Belmont Town Administrator Patrice Garvin’s had not made a quick decision to apply for funds from a program she had used in her previous position.

“You should talk to the real hero,” Williams said pointing to Garvin.

Less than two weeks on the job, Garvin was able to secure the $30,000 by using her own initiative and past experience with the state program. 

Being a member of the compact “benefits you on every grant you apply for,” said Garvin.

When she was being interviewed for the Belmont position, Garvin told the selectmen and staff she would seek to increase outside sources of funding as to diversify the town’s revenue stream, critical in a town that relies heavily on residential real estate taxes.

Garvin got her chance to mobilize Belmont to procure state grants soon after arriving on the job on Jan. 16 when she discovered while the Selectmen approved joining the pact with the state, it hadn’t moved forward with the implementation

“When I came in, someone casually said the board had just agreed to join.”

“For me, it’s just a no-brainer. Even though the board hadn’t yet begun the application process, I decided to do so,” said Garvin. “I went online [to the compact’s website] that day to apply and the next day we had a day that the Lt. Governor was coming. It was really quick,” said Garvin. 

Garvin said in her experience, municipalities need to be active in seeking intergovernmental or private funding sources. 

“It’s a piece of the toolbox that you need to get more money in the future,” she said.

Historic: Garvin Sworn In As Belmont’s First Female Town Administrator

Photo: Patrice Garvin being sworn in by Town Clerk Ellen Cushman as Belmont first female town administrator.

Town Clerk Ellen Cushman was ready with the official signing in book, two of the three selectmen were in place and the Board of Selectmen’s table was festooned with sweets and pastries.

And a few minutes after 8 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 16, history was made as Patrice Garvin was sworn in as Belmont’s first permanent female town administrator.

“I’m very excited and I’m looking forward to working with everybody in the town of Belmont. Looking to get going,” said Garvin who received a round of applause after Cushman made her appointment official. The swearing in was Garvin’s second public event in Belmont as she attended the annual Martin Luther King Community Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 15 where she was introduced to many residents. Garvin was offered the job in December after a long search process to find a replacement for David Kale, who returned to Cambridge after four years in Belmont.

Garvin has a three-year contract running through Jan. 15, 2021 with options to extend her employment. Garvin will receive an annual salary of $168,000.

Garvin said that she hoped her first day would not “be too overwhelming” and was looking forward to meeting more of the staff “and have more conversations and dive right in.” She believed her main goal in the next few months – during which the town budget takes center stage – is to meet and discuss with each department head their budgets in detail “and those are the conversations I want to have.” 

As with any out-of-town commuter, the Chelmsford resident found the town’s congested roads and business centers “challenging but indicative of this area.” Before he left, Williams provided Garvin with the location of the “secret” parking space only known to certain selectmen and now her. 

Every little bit of advice helps when you’re new in town.

Selectmen Offers Shirley’s Town Administrator Belmont Position; Contract Possibly Monday

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.”