The Brewster selectmen acknowledged Tuesday that they could not clone Town Administrator Charles Sumner, who will retire in the fall after 29 years on the job, and then they voted unanimously to hire North Kingstown, Rhode Island, Town Manager Michael Embury.
Other candidates on the top of their list were Christopher Clark, the town administrator of Harwich since 2013, and Ronald San Angelo, town administrator of Hanson since 2013.
Embury became the clear leader after the selectmen reported results of their interviews with colleagues of the three finalists.
Selectman Patricia Hughes said the staff in North Kingstown said Embury had good judgment and good balance in his life. The town planner there said Embury gave him the tools to do his job and that North Kingstown was innovative in planning.
"Mike is a guy who really acknowledged the accomplishments (of others) and is also not afraid to speak up to the council," Hughes said. "He’s very frank."
Reviews about the other candidates were not as uniformly positive.
Clark said in his cover letter that his transition to Harwich has been successful, “but I am concerned in regards to my fit."
“I believe that the (Harwich) Board of Selectmen is looking for a weaker leader,” Clark said. “Your opportunity presents a unique circumstance for me to transition.”
Selectman James Foley said some who have worked with Clark liked that he "took the reins."
"But others said, 'Be careful. He will absolutely win your hearts at the interview; just be careful of what you’re asking for,'" Foley noted.
Clark's tenure in Harwich has been marked by two department heads being placed on administrative leave with no reason ever publicly stated.
Since 2014, the head of the Harwich Water Department and the golf director both resigned after being placed on leave.
Brewster Selectman John Dickson asked Clark about the turnover in Harwich.
Clark said about 5 percent of a workforce can be problematic. With 22 department heads in Harwich, “two ran afoul of common practice,” Clark said. “I consider myself a solid professional and if I see something wrong, I’m going to take action to fix it. Both of two investigations I got into, both were substantiated and pretty serious. The newspaper looks at the two and doesn’t look at the other 20 that are solid professionals.”
Foley also talked with colleagues of San Angelo's. They told him they liked his people skills, but no one said anything about his ability to accomplish projects or tackle financial issues.
"Everyone liked Ron, but he wasn’t the one to put you over the moon," Foley said.
San Angelo last week was offered the job as town manager of Southbridge and said if he had been selected for the Brewster position, he would have faced a difficult decision.
Embury began his career as a bricklayer in the 1970s. He worked as a town planner, an executive secretary and then as a town administrator for Middletown, Rhode Island, for 12 years before becoming town manager of North Kingstown in 2007.