hurd budget

An annual job review found Bennington Town Manager Stuart Hurd "well respected by town staff, knowledgeable about the issues."

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BENNINGTON — In his annual job review released Thursday, the Bennington Select Board found that Town Manager Stuart Hurd is well respected by town staff, knowledgeable about the issues impacting the town and efficient in administering and communicating the vision of the Board.

“Stu is an extremely strong manager,” said Board Chairwoman Jeannie Jenkins. “He is incredibly competent in terms of managing the finances. He is knowledgeable about infrastructure projects. All of that has been real asset to the town and served us well over the years.”

Formal annual reviews for town managers were begun in 2015, and involve confidential input from town staff and the community. Jenkins said about 50 people provided input for this year’s review.

She noted that the elected Select Board members are charged with developing the vision for the town; the town manager’s job is to implement and communicate that vision, and manage the budget and roughly 95 town employees.

“I think Stu has been very responsive to this elected board,” Jenkins said. She cited as an example the Board’s desire to expand recreational opportunities in Bennington. Hurd “worked hand in glove with the YMCA and Senior Center to better blend those services.” In addition, he helped oversee the creation of the Community Police Advisory Review Board at the Board’s request, she said.

“The Manager is widely respected and well-liked by staff. He is seen as professional, approachable and a good listener,” the review found.

“Several interviewees remarked on Hurd’s “open door policy” and that they felt comfortable bringing issues forward.

“A common theme heard was that workload, particularly with regard for the number of responsibilities placed on individual town staff, was high,” the report continued.

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In addition, the community input found that “the Manager received strong praise for his depth of knowledge, active listening, and management of the Town. Several interviewees commented on the excellence and responsiveness of town staff.”

“Goals identified by the Town Manager for the coming year include continued work on the Benn Hi project to provide community and recreational services and housing options to the community; completion of infrastructure projects including water line and lead line replacement projects; adding a dedicated IT staff person to eliminate internal vulnerabilities and to increase internet-based resources and services for town staff; pay parity within town departments; and as part of long-range financial planning efforts, to develop Town plans to diversify sources of revenue to rely less heavily on property taxes,” the report stated.

Jenkins said the Board would continue to push Hurd to strengthen his transition planning for when he and possibly other senior staffers leave their jobs.

“The town is really well run and it has fabulous staff,” she said. But, she noted, “the Select Board wants to make sure if any of these senior supervisory positions open up there is plan for how someone can move into those positions, and have the backup and support to learn those jobs.”

Jenkins said this has been a continuing theme in recent years, adding, “The community cares about this, town staff cares about this. They want to make sure that as changes happen, they happen in a thoughtful way.”

She said the Board wants Hurd to continue the town’s efforts to better interact with social service organizations — groups fighting substance abuse, focusing on mental health issues, and trying to reduce domestic abuse, for example.

And the Select Board wants Hurd to find ways of connecting with all town staff, not just supervisors. Jenkins said that was a focus prior to the COVID pandemic, and needs to become a priority again.

“Based on his 2022 review, the Board has full confidence in our current town manager’s ability to lead us through 2023,” the Board report concluded.


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