As Franklin city manager steps down, search for replacement ramps up

  • Elizabeth Dragon

Monitor staff
Thursday, September 14, 2017

Even as the current city manager is set to step down Friday, residents of Franklin aren’t expected to see candidates to fill her shoes until early December, according to interim mayor Scott Clarenbach.

The city council hired an Atlanta-based consulting firm, The Mercer Group, to find and weed through candidates. The group met for the first time last week to set goals for the search, which will be nationwide with a special focus on candidates from New England.

Interviews are expected to be done in private, and finalists will be presented publicly near the end of the year, Clarenbach said.

Current City Manager Elizabeth Dragon – who has served in her position for nine years – is leaving for a new position as manager in Keene. Financial Director Judie Milner will replace Dragon as interim city manager.

Milner will be the second interim fill-in for a prominent position in the city’s government over the past few months. Clarenbach was appointed as interim mayor in May after then-Mayor Ken Merrifield was tapped to become the state’s labor commissioner.

Franklin’s new city manager will inherit the city’s various revitalization projects, including the renovation of one of the city’s mill buildings for affordable housing, developing a white-water paddling park and completing facade improvements to buildings owned by revitalization-focused nonprofit PermaCityLife.

The city of Franklin won’t be initiating any new projects until a long-term city manager is chosen, said Milner, whose primary job will be to oversee the city’s existing revitalization efforts.

“We’ve got to find the best candidate to pick up the torch and keep running with it,” Clarenbach said.

The council aims to solidify a replacement for Dragon before January – when the newly elected mayor and at least one city council member will start their positions. Clarenbach said he and the council want those who have been involved in the search from the beginning to make the final decision.

“We don’t want to have a process where we are midstream and then have to bring on the new councilors,” Clarenbach said. “That would be unproductive.”

Clarenbach said they hope to review all applications for the position by November. After whittling down the applicant pool, they will likely present the last few candidates in a public forum. He said he’s not yet sure what the structure of that meeting will be.

When Milner steps into the position Monday, she will retain her position as financial director, while also taking on Dragon’s responsibilities.

Milner said she knows it will be a lot to take on.

“I expect some long hours,” she said.