11:30 a.m. NOTE:  This article has been updated to include quotes we received from officials after our original deadline. 

It’s one thing to replace a high level town employee; the process is usually lengthy and typically involves search committees, consultants and procedural votes as well as considering town budget concerns.

But when the need to replace that employee coincides with a change in municipal leadership⎯such as what will happen in November when Wilton will elect a new first selectman and two additional members of the BoS⎯it adds additional layers of consideration.

Such is the issue facing Wilton following town CFO Sandy Dennies‘ decision to resign effective Nov. 30⎯just as the administrative transition will happen.

The conundrum poses many issues to town leaders, including these:

  • Is it imperative to find Dennies’ replacement as quickly as possible and have the new CFO in place on Dec. 1, given the importance of the role and because of the town’s constant need for fiscal responsibility?
  • Should the search committee seek the opinions of the two first selectman candidates, Deb McFadden and Lynne Vanderslice, now?
  • Should there be an interim hire to hold the spot in order to give the new first selectman time to lead the process and help choose someone who will help her accomplish her goals for the town?

Current first selectman Bill Brennan has already begun the process of seeking a replacement, by asking two people to join him to act as search committee:  Dick Dubow, a member of the Board of Selectmen, and Warren Serenbetz, chair of the Board of Finance. The same men formed the search committee six years ago when Dennies was hired, and they’ve already started with preliminary steps, talking with NESC (National Executive Search Corps), the same search firm that helped find Dennies.

GOOD Morning Wilton sought out opinions of several town officials close to the process. First selectman Bill Brennan is on vacation and unavailable for comment. Neither Lynne Vanderslice nor selectman Jim Saxe responded to a request for comment by GMW.com‘s publish deadline.

UPDATE AUG. 18, 11:30 a.m.⎯Bill Brennan emailed a comment from vacation:  “It is important to recognize that highly qualified CFOs do not grow on trees. A search process is required to identify, interview and reach consensus on the strongest candidate. As reported, the BOS is eventually responsible for making this selection. To accomplish this objective, a search team has been established and the process has begun. On Aug. 25, the team of Brennan, Serenbetz and Dubow will have a follow up meeting with the NESC search professionals to go over strategy and finalize position requirements. Search plans and activity will be reviewed with the BOS at our next scheduled meeting on Sept. 8.

“Having gone through this process on many occasions for various staff positions, I am very confident that we will eventually identify an outstanding financial executive for the town’s CFO position. However, the process takes time and it should be recognized that at least one other CT municipality is currently seeking a CFO.”

UPDATE Aug. 18, 8:45 a.m.⎯Lynne Vanderslice emailed her comment from vacation:  “It is ultimately the decision of the BoS to hire the position. With three of the five seats being decided in the November election, I hope the current BoS will decide to hire an interim CFO, thus allowing the new BoS to make the hiring decision.”

Dick Dubow emailed a brief comment:  “We will try to find the best candidate to fill the position for the long-term. While it is a tight timeline, I am confident we will be successful.”

Warren Serenbetz, Bd. of Finance chair:  You don’t look forward to having to make changes in personnel, particularly as we’re going to be changing over the administration at the same time, because you like to have the history there and the know-how. That timing makes it a little more difficult than it might otherwise be, but certainly everybody has a point to their life when they want to move on and do something else. It’s certainly understandable.

Finding someone else will take a little time, and that’s always something we want to do very purposefully.

On the search committee:  It’s in the very early stages, and yes, I’m one of the people on it. We have yet to meet with the NESC (National Executive Service Corps) people who are actually going to do the search for us. We’ve looked at a job description; I don’t know if it’s been decided yet⎯my druthers would be to hire someone on an interim basis so that the incoming administration has the ability to do what they need to do with their ideas and what they think they can accomplish with the CFO. But that’s not been decided yet, whether it’s permanent or interim.

We would be making a recommendation to the Bd. of Selectmen. The procedure [of how the committee is formed or searches for a candidate] doesn’t have to go in front of the Bd. of Selectmen⎯although they may have an opinion that they’ll want to share. I think that may be something we see happen, because there may be a feeling out there that it really needs to be an interim position. So we’ll get some strong feelings one way or the other before any hire recommendation is made.

You don’t want to hire somebody and encumber the incoming new administration with someone that they didn’t want to hire, that’s number one. Number two, you have to consider that somebody new coming in, I’m not sure they want to be in a permanent position where they’re all of a sudden having to deal with someone new. So I think there’s a lot of arguments for an interim replacement.

Deborah McFadden, Selectman; running for First Selectman:  I’m anxious to see what the search committee discovers and hope to have input into the process, as I’m sure Lynne Vanderslice would as well.

On whether she knows if the first selectman candidates will have input:  It’s too early at this point, this just happened.

Michael Kaelin, Selectman; running to stay on the BoS:  My understanding is that the only thing going on right now is the search for an interim replacement, not a permanent replacement for Sandy. [But] Everything is so preliminary at this point that there is no certainty. I don’t think any decisions have been made on what they’re going to do. I’m of the view we should only be looking for an interim replacement.

In fact, I feel so strongly about that I can’t even imagine. I keep an open mind, so maybe somebody can persuade me otherwise. In my view, both of the candidates for first selectman would have to be involved in this process and they would have to be in agreement.

It’s great Sandy is staying until the end of Bill’s term, but whoever is going to be the next first selectman has to have a say on who the next CFO should be.

I know no decisions have been made because the BoS hasn’t voted on it. The Board has to approve the candidate, so whoever is going to propose a candidate to the Board should probably, in my view definitely, should be consulting with the board about how they’re going to go about finding a candidate. Since we have decision-making power, we should have input on how the candidates are generated.

Lynne and Deborah have to have input on this process.