As the retirement of Finance Director John Kondub approaches, First Selectman Gordon Joseloff has formed a search committee for a successor.

The panel will select about a half-dozen candidates for interviews from the applicant pool and likely recommend two of them to Joseloff. The first selectman will make the final decision on the hiring of the new finance director, who is scheduled to take over from Kondub in early 2012.

"Replacing John is not going to be easy," said committee member Edward Iannone, who also serves on the Board of Finance. "He's been in town for 30 years. He has lot of information and institutional knowledge in his head, and it's going to walk out the door."

Kondub was appointed finance director in August 2008 after serving as acting finance director following the February 2008 death of his predecessor, Donald Miklus.

The five-person search committee also includes Board of Finance Chairwoman Helen Garten, Selectman Charles Haberstroh, Fairfield Chief Fiscal Officer Paul Hiller and former finance board member Kevin Connolly.

The town's job description of the finance director position lists a range of duties, which include preparing annual operating and capital improvement budgets; overseeing town employee pension and Other Post-Employment Benefits valuations; and formulating strategies for labor negotiations and developing wage and benefits structures.

"We need somebody who can come in and operate a very tight and efficient operation that delivers superior services," Joseloff said.

In contrast to the 2008 finance director search, Joseloff's committee will look for candidates from the private sector in addition to applicants with governmental experience.

In addition to the town's website, the position is also posted on monster.com and careerbuilder.com and can be found through the JOBS function on Bloomberg L.P. terminals. The deadline for applications is Nov. 15.

Westport's new finance director will earn between $125,000 and $150,000, according to the town's listing for the position.

Kondub's successor will face an array of fiscal challenges. Most prominently, the town carries an unfunded OPEB liability, which ranges from $75 million to $120 million, according to projections from the actuarial firm Pentegra Retirement Services.

The delivery of Pentegra's latest OPEB report arrived approximately four months late and was preceded by a June meeting in which Pentegra's chief actuary, Jeff Kissel, informed the board that the previous OPEB report, conducted in 2008 by another firm, had omitted more than 400 town employees from its calculations.

Since then, relations between the Finance Department and several board members have often been fractious, with some members describing the town's fiscal controls as weak, while others have questioned the reliability of the data in Pentegra's OPEB report.

Iannone, nonetheless, said communication between the Board of Finance and the Finance Department had improved during his four years as a board member.

"But I still feel that there's room for significant improvement," he said.

After serving as a Republican on the finance board for one term, Iannone will not seek re-election in the Nov. 8 election.

Hiller said the new finance director should also seek to foster closer ties between municipal and Board of Education departments.

"One of the challenges in Westport, as I see it, is trying to achieve more cooperation and synergy with the Board of Education," he said. "That's a challenge on the town side and the Board of Ed side."

This year, town and school officials launched an initiative to consolidate municipal and school services. As that process develops, Hiller suggested that Westport town leaders examine the collaboration of municipal and school officials in Fairfield.

"When we buy utilities, the town buys them and the Board of Ed knows what's going on and they're kept in the loop," he said. "We're buying them all at the same time."

The search committee for Kondub's successor will also be involved in shaping the new finance director's agenda, Garten said.

"There are a lot of the things that the finance director does, so it's a very stressful and demanding job," she said. "At the same time, this gives us an opportunity to take a look at what it is that we want our finance director to do."