POWNAL — The municipal gears in Pownal have shifted yet again, after the abrupt resignation of Executive Assistant Megan Albert, who was being trained to become town administrator.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, she cited a lack of support from the Select Board and a “completely disorganized” town office as her reasons for leaving.
The Select Board received Albert’s resignation Thursday during a special board meeting, but no statement was issued by the board.
After a request for comment this week, the board responded Tuesday through board liaison Rebecca Dragon that Albert had resigned at the meeting “effective immediately,” but no further details were provided.
Dragon said she’d planned to leave her board liaison position as of last week but has now decided to remain.
“I am staying on temporarily,” Dragon said Tuesday. “My last day was Friday, but I want to help them get through this transition and get settled.”
‘LACK OF SUPPORT’
Reached for comment later Tuesday, Albert said in an email, “The main reason I resigned is due to not being supported by the Select Board as a whole. In addition, the office was completely disorganized and even a new Town Hall couldn’t change the dynamics there. When I asked for support from the Select Board regarding an array of issues, they rarely responded to my emails, especially in recent months when we were moving the whole town office.”
In addition, she said, “I’ve been trying to start a Pownal historic preservation commission. American history is my area of expertise and my passion, and I thought I could bring a lot to the table for Pownal to succeed in this department. They turned it down, even with all the potential for grant money and preservation of historic buildings in town. I’m now focusing on my historic preservation consulting work. I’m an independent contractor, but also working on building a firm.”
Dragon said Albert’s executive assistant post has been filled by Tara Parks, who was hired as the town office administrative assistant in February.
That position formerly was held by Albert, who was promoted in January to replace Executive Assistant Tim Darter. Darter resigned in December 2021 after 10 months on the job, citing personal reasons.
Parks was hired under the same conditions as Albert, including that she attend a two-year municipal training program, with the goal of becoming a town administrator, Dragon said.
Parks, 37, of Pownal, was previously employed for six years with ABTEC Inc., based in Arlington, which works with water systems and performs water testing in the state.
Before that, Parks worked in the human services field and in child care. She holds an associate’s degree in human services from the Community College of Vermont.
“I’m feeling pretty hopeful with the new situation,” Dragon said Tuesday, adding that Parks has adapted well to her new role and seems to have “great temperament” for the work, similar to that exhibited by Darter.
“I’d like to wish Tara and the town of Pownal the best of luck,” Albert said in her email.
Dragon added that Hannah Darling of Pownal has been offered the administrative assistant’s job in the town office on a temporary basis, replacing Parks. However, the job must be posted before it can be filled on a permanent basis.
When Darter left the executive assistant position, the Select Board said it would seek to hire a town administrator who would have more administrative authority and receive a higher salary. They said Darter had provided a blueprint for how that job could be formatted to avoid past controversies about the role.
After years of effort to create a town administrator’s post to oversee day-to-day operations as a representative of the part-time board, Michael Walker was hired in 2018 as the first administrator.
However, he was fired in December 2019 after months of controversy, with some critical of the way he interacted with others in the town office and his supporters saying he was undercut in the job by some town officials, including some Select Board members.
The town administrator’s position was subsequently left unfilled by the board in 2020, when members instead decided to create other posts in the office to perform those duties. The posts included the executive assistant and board liaison positions.
The job posting in early January this year, seeking to replace Darter, called for a return to the enhanced position of town administrator.
It stated that the administrator would be the “chief administrative officer for the town,” and someone who “coordinates and is responsible for the administration and financial management of the town, supervises Town Hall operations, works with and assists the other town departments, and manages all town activities on a day-to-day basis.”
The posting added, “The administrator is to perform highly complex professional, administrative and management work in providing daily control over ongoing town activities, as well as assisting the Select Board to discharge the duties of office; and all related work as required.”
But the Select Board abruptly changed course in late January, announcing that it would instead promote the administrative assistant, Albert, 33, to executive assistant, replacing Darter. She was one of six applicants for the town administrator’s job.
The board’s plan called for her to attend training sessions suggested by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, with the goal of naming her town administrator at a higher salary in two years.
Certification was to involve a two-year state Department of Human Resources course in town management. The board agreed to pay Albert’s tuition and expenses to attend classes.
The board offered her a salary of $45,000, plus educational and related expenses, using money in the town administrator’s salary budget line, which had totaled $65,000 when Walker accepted the job.
Albert previously served for five years as recording secretary for the town of Shaftsbury and has worked as a library assistant. She also worked as a substitute teacher and as a legal researcher for nine years while living in the San Francisco area.
She received a bachelor’s degree in history from Southern Vermont College and a master’s degree in American history from American Public University.