A five-member search committee has been appointed by First Selectman Jim Marpe to interview candidates for the new position of town operations director.
Funding for the job's salary, which Marpe this week estimated would be between $75,000 and $90,000, was approved Monday as part of the $76.59 million municipal budget for 2014-15 by the Representative Town Meeting.
Marpe -- who would be the operations director's supervisor -- said that he has identified "at least 10 projects that would benefit from the focused attention of such a position."
John Pincavage, the Board of Finance chairman, speaking at Monday's meeting, said the panel had discussions about that position during its budget review.
"We spoke about it and felt there is the need for" someone to help with "long-range projects."
The post appears to be a scaled-down version of a job that Marpe proposed creating in the immediate aftermath of his election last November -- and which sparked controversy at the time.
Shortly after being sworn in, Marpe appointed Bob Zappi, his former campaign manager and a former Republican Town Committee chairman, as operations manager, with an annual salary of $125,000. Marpe, the town's top elected official, is paid less at $101,000.
Less than a week later, Zappi quit citing "partisan perception." In fact, then-Democratic Town Committee Chairman Jim Ezzes called Zappi's hiring "totally inappropriate and nothing but political patronage."
Marpe, in an email Monday afternoon to the Westport News, said a "bi-partisan committee" helped him prepare the job description for the operations director position.
On Wednesday, he named the members of the search committee, which will be chaired by Pete Wolgast, who served as executive assistant to a former Westport first selectman.
The committee also includes Ralph Chetcuti, the town's personnel director; Karen Hess, communications specialist; Don O'Day, former Board of Education chairman, and Steve Parrish, senior corporate executive.
"The operations director will be an extremely important member of my team and whose work will directly benefit the town of Westport and its residents," Marpe said in a statement. "I am pleased that a group of Westporters with various backgrounds and professional experience, all of whom have demonstrated a commitment to serving and improving Westport, have agreed to serve on this important search committee. I am confident that together we will find a top-quality candidate for this key position."
Marpe said the committee will begin interviewing job candidates shortly and will make a recommendation to him. He said he plans to appoint the new operations director this spring.
The operations director will report directly to Marpe and, according to him, work with all town departments to achieve operational efficiency, improve government effectiveness, enhance and expand communications, develop strategies to accomplish disaster recovery objectives, and seek economic development opportunities.
To be considered for the job, he said, candidates must possess knowledge of the principles and practices of municipal administration; knowledge of public personnel and finance methods and procedures; ability to perform research and prepare technical reports on all aspects of municipal government operations, and know emergency management methods and procedures.
Preferred candidates, Marpe said, should have a master's degree in business or public administration, or related field, and five years of progressively responsible municipal experience, or an equivalent combination of education and experience.
Candidates should also possess extensive knowledge of Westport and town government operations. For more information or to apply for the job, contact: email@example.com, or Personnel Department, Westport Town Hall, Room 208, 110 Myrtle Ave., Westport, CT 06880.
The application deadline is May 20.