Wilton considers adding town administrator role

Wilton First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice presented a plan to her fellow selectmen for a town administrator position to aid her in carrying out her full scope of duties.

Wilton First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice presented a plan to her fellow selectmen for a town administrator position to aid her in carrying out her full scope of duties.

Alex von Kleydorff / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — In addition to finding a successor to departing CFO Anne Kelly-Lenz, the town selectmen have been asked to consider adding another full-time staff member to alleviate some pressures off other local officials.

The new position would be referred to as a “town administrator,” First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said Tuesday, arguing that the new role would take a bevy of extra responsibilities away from the duties of the first selectperson role, as well as fit a growing expectation in town.

“Residents are increasingly expecting a 24/7 government,” Vanderslice told the selectmen. “It used to just be police and fire 24/7, but they’re expecting that from everyone.”

She said residents are also expecting an “equally responsive first selectperson” to lead the town and answer questions. Vanderslice often responds to dozens of emails daily and even receives requests on various social media sites.

Vanderslice oversees a town workforce of over 150 employees with 12 paid, full-time department heads that report to her directly.

In addition, the Wilton first selectwoman holds leadership positions in the Western Connecticut Council of Governments, the Western Connecticut Economic Development District and a metropolitan planning organization based in Fairfield County. She said these groups have recently asked her to continue in her leadership role, which she is happy to do.

Adding the town adminstrator role will aid Vanderslice in continuing to fulfill her full scope of duties to the town and the region, she said.

Selectman Joshua Cole acknowledged that the sphere of influence that the town’s first selectperson must take on has grown in years past and agreed that help is needed.

Vanderslice was not immediately available for comment Thursday on a potential salary for the position.

In her presentation to the board, Vanderslice presented a list of 31 towns that are similar in size and demographic to Wilton. Out of those towns, 29 of them employ a position referred to as a “town manager.” While there are no town manager positions in Fairfield County, numerous towns employ a town administrator — a role with “less authority” than a town manager, according to Vanderslice, but no less effective.

Looking at some of the town’s closest neighbors, Vanderslice saw municipalities — including New Canaan and Darien — that do employ full-time positions. Others, she noted, do not.

“The bottom line is three towns — Wilton, Ridgefield and Redding — do not have any professional to assume any of these administrative responsibilites from the first selectperson’s office,” she said.

Vanderslice said the town charter already allows for the powers of the first selectmen to be delegated to either another selectman or another individual of her choosing, then approved by the full Board of Selectmen.

“This is the direction we need to go in,” Vanderslice asserted.

After her presentation, she received resounding support from her fellow selectmen.

Selectman Ross Tartell agreed that another full-time role would aid Vanderslice in focusing on the town’s most integral issues.

With the support of the BOS, Vanderslice said a more formal job description will soon be created and will need to be approved by the selectmen at a future special meeting. Then, the job posting will be shared via municipal government job sites and a formal interview process with qualified candidates will be explored.