June 24 2018

Three Internal Candidates Interview for Town Administrator Position

By: Rich Hosford

The Board of Selectmen began the process of choosing Burlington’s next Town Administrator with a special meeting last Monday.


During the meeting they interviewed three internal candidates who had put thrown their hats in the ring for the position.


As reported on BNEWS, current Town Administrator John Petrin announced that he will retire in 2019. Under his contract he could step down as early as February but he has said he would stay on through the May Town Meeting, where the budget is voted on, if needed.


Earlier this year the board voted to start the search for his replacement internally. They also asked for, and received, an appropriation of $20,000 to facilitate an external search if necessary. If the board decides to go with a current town employee those funds will be returned to the town coffers.


The three town employee candidates interviewed on Monday were Planning Director Kristin Kassner, Purchasing Analyst Katherine Moskos and Town Accountant/Assistant Town Administrator Paul Sagarino.


Kristin Kassner


Kassner holds two Bachelor degrees from Miami University, one in Urban and Regional Planning and the other in Geography. She also holds a Masters degree in Urban and Environmental Policy & Planning from Tufts University.


Before taking her current position in 2012, Kassner was the town’s Senior Planner from 2010 to 2012. Prior to that she was an Assistant Planner starting from 2004. Kassner is also a member of the American Planning Association and was president of the Massachusetts Chapter for a two year term from 2015 to 2017.


During the interview Kassner pointed to a number of development projects she had been a part of in terms of suggesting changes to ensure they would be successful and fit the town. One of the projects she highlighted was the Northwest, home of the 3rd Ave development. This work, she said, gives her insight into how the town can grow in the future.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of changes in how people live, work and recreate and also where and how they eat,” she said. “I feel the skill set that I’ve gained working in Burlington and working with the many companies and residents to effectuate a lot of the change in the past is what’s needed to help bring us forward to the next chapter.”  


The board also asked about Kassner’s leadership philosophies and how she would oversee department heads that are currently her peers in town government. She said she believes in a balance between oversight and autonomy and a focus on cooperation.


“I think the backbone of any organization is that you have to allow people autonomy and allow them to thrive individually while supporting their efforts,” she said. “But it is also meeting regularly to go over what is happening in their departments - what is happening that can benefit everyone and how can we work together to help you, help us and help everyone.”


When talking about town finances and the budget process Kassner said that while she may not have as much experience “crunching number” as those who do that work every day, those people don’t have the planning and development experience she brings to the table.


“I think the role of the town administrator is going over the budgetary process and working through other aspects of it, not necessarily crunching the numbers,” she said. “I think we have staff that prepare the budget.”

“However, to the question of how to ensure continued fiscal success, I think that has a lot to do with managing,” Kassner continued. “There are a lot of things we can do and play a positive role to ensure our tax revenue remains consistent and stable and grow. That has a lot to do with development and the town’s growth potential and the ability to respond to the market so we can attract additional revenue into the town.”

Katherine Moskos


Moskos has a Bachelors of Science in Historic Preservation from Roger Williams University and a Masters in Public Administration from Suffolk University. She also has a Certificate in Local Government Leadership & Management from the Massachusetts Municipal Association and Suffolk University’s Moakley Center for Public Management.


She been Burlington’s Purchasing Analyst since 2014. Before that she was the Executive Assistant for Wellesley’s Department of Public Works starting in 2013. She was a Management Office Assistant in that office starting in 2010 and the Accounts Payable Clerk there starting in 2007.


Moskos is a member of a number professional societies including National Contract Management Association, the Institute for Public Procurement and Massachusetts Public Purchasing Officials.


During the interview Moskos was asked how her experience would help her in the role of Town Administrator. She said her wide variety of past jobs gives her a range of experiences to pull from and makes her someone who knows it is best to listen to everyone, no matter their position.


“As to how my background is different and how it would help or contribute the position, I have done everything from being a receptionist to where I am now and if I had the opportunity i’d be digging in the trenches with the engineers,” she said. “I have done a little bit of everything, I always treat everyone equally and I’m always willing to have an ear and learn something from someone else. I don’t know everything, I’m never going to know everything, and that’s why we rely on the different department heads and residents, businesses, to share their ideas. Not every idea you’re going to like but you stay respectful to the fact that they are giving us their ideas.”


On her leadership philosophy she once again stressed the need to listen and said more communication between all departments and all levels would be a focus of her office.


“I would have a lot of more communication,” she said. “In a previous town I worked in they had weekly program manager meetings, which means every department head was in the same room talking about what was going on in their division that week. I think that would be a valuable addition to the excellent department heads we have right now. I think there is room to add more collaboration between the departments. More working as a unit rather than the infamous silos that still exist in government.”


Finally, when asked about town budget and how she would maintain the town’s financial standing she said she would rely on her own experience the expertise already in place in Burlington.


“As purchasing analyst I’m all about maximizing the dollar and having spent a good amount of time in accounting I have a good degree of experience,” she said. “I have a good degree of knowledge of how various accounts can be used but our town accountant has more expertise and would be a beacon of knowledge and I would work with him to manage the town’s accounts keep that AAA rating.”


Paul Sagarino


Sagarino has a Masters of Public Administration from Northeastern University.


He has been Burlington’s Town Accountant since 2005 and the Assistant Town Administrator since 2014. Before that he was a Senior Accountant with the auditing firm Powers & Sullivan starting in 2004. He has also worked as the Assistant Treasurer/Collector for the Town of Lincoln, the Treasurer/Collector of Winthrop, the Assistant Treasurer/Collector in Danvers and as an Accountant/Field Representative from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue starting in 1998.


Sagarino pointed to many highpoints in Burlington’s finances that he was a part of, including the town’s AAA bond rating, the TIF agreements with Keurig and Millipore Sigma and the creation of the Budget Analyst position.


Sagarino said in the interview that he feels his experience as Town Accountant and Assistant Town Administrator has prepared him for the top job and that he is already part of the decision making process.


“I feel very fortunate, I feel like I’ve been involved in every major decision in the 12 years I’ve been here,” he said. “I was able to offer feedback and was kept in the loop. I feel fortunate that I was included in all the planning and background on the big decisions.”


“Since I became the Assistant Town Administrator, aside from filling in from John, I meet with department heads, public safety chiefs on a daily basis, the DPW Director several times a week, the financial team as needed, and other various other departments as things come up,” he continued. “I feel like I’ve transitioned from just the person people see when John’s not here to a person that people view as a resource. People stop by and I can offer them some unbiased feedback on an idea or a problem they are having. They come by now more to bounce ideas off me like a sounding board and I feel like I’ve been able to offer them some feedback to help improve their process or their idea or help them solve their problem.”


When asked how he would transition from working with other department heads to overseeing him, Sagarino said his role as Town Accountant has given him the experience of having difficult conversations with peers in a professional manner.


“I’ve worked here for 12 years and feel as though I’ve been able to development really good interpersonal relationships with my fellow department heads,” he said. “When you’re in the accounting office you often have to communicate news to a department and you have to do it in a way that maintains a positive relationship. We’re sort of the ‘no’ department so we have to work with department heads. Typically I have to tell them that we can’t afford something or that we have to go through another process. It can be a challenge to manage your peers but I feel as though that being in the financial department I’ve already had to have difficult conversations and I think I have been able to do it in a manner that is professional and respectful.”

Finally, when asked about maintaining Burlington’s financial situation Sagarino said one big focus would be on the future of development that keeps pace with changing trends.


“The challenge of finance directly relates to the challenge of economic development,” he said. “I really feel this is one of the biggest challenges facing the town going forward - the changes in office space.”


The issue, he said, is that more and more employees are working from home or other off-site locations. Since a good portion of Burlington’s economy depends not only on office parks but the workers at them who frequent restaurants and other establishments, town leadership needs to consider ways of keeping the number of employees in town from dropping.


“I think we’re going to have to work hard to figure out what is the future of office space going forward,” he said. “All the great developments we have going on now, 3rd Ave and The District and the like, were all planned out many years ago so I think we have to work really hard to determine what is the future of office work and what types of companies we have to attract to maintain what we have. We want to look at innovation centers and small businesses that want to grow into big businesses.


There were many more questions asked by the Board of Selectmen. You can watch the full meeting here.

Members of the board said they were impressed with the three candidates and would take time to mull over the decision. They will discuss the hiring process further during their meeting on Monday, June 25.


Photo, from left: Kristin Kassner, Katherine Moskos, Paul Sagarino


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