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ABOUT TOWN: Feaster Hands Keys to Stoughton's New Town Manager

Welcome to "About Town with Mark Snyder," a column that will keep you up to the minute with what's what, who's who and what's going on around town. If you see or hear something we could use here, let us know by sending an e

Editor's Note: On Dec. 20, the Stoughton Board of Selectmen held a collation at Town Hall to thank Interim Town Manager Joseph D. Feaster, Jr. for his service to the town and to welcome incoming Town Manager Michael J. Hartman. Many residents, town employees and town officials attended the meet and greet.

Hartman was officially sworn in by Town Clerk Cheryl Mooney Dec. 21 at 11:30 a.m. (He'll also be sworn in before a public audience at an upcoming Selectmen's meeting). In a symbolic gesture, Feaster handed Hartman the keys to Stoughton's Town Hall.

After serving as the Interim Town Manager since April, Feaster gives way to Hartman, who officially started Dec. 17. Feaster's contract expires Dec. 28, providing for a transitional period.

While he won't be in the corner office, Feaster said he plans to stay active in town happenings. He jokingly put a sign on the front row seat in the Great Hall where Selectmen Cynthia Walsh typically sat before her service on the Board and said it was now "Feaster's Seat."

Take a look at photos and video (by Stoughton Patch Editor Jeffrey Pickette) from the collation and swearing in ceremony in the media gallery. Read About Town Columnist Mark Snyder's take on the transition below:

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NEW TOWN MANAGER IN COMMAND: Interim Town Manager Joseph D. Feaster, Jr. accomplished a lot in his temporary term in the corner office. Most importantly, he bonded with the school department and - along with Selectman Chairman John Stagnone, School Committee Chair Deb Sovinee, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marguerite Rizzi - encouraged cooperation between both ends of Pearl Street.

A new roof was put on Town Hall, and he went up on a lift and inspected it himself. He hired the town’s new HR Director, Procurement Officer, Assistant DPW Superintendent and Board of Selectmen’s Secretary.

I don’t know anyone who has anything negative to say about Joe. He’s an amiable thoughtful guy. Some might disagree with him philosophically on some issues, but they respect the man. He certainly worked well with this local press, to put out a positive picture of what was going on in Town Hall.

Feaster will head back to his law practice at McKenzie & Associates, P.C. in Boston. Feaster told me he is also running for a seat at Town Meeting.

In a short interview from Zachary’s breakfast place on Thursday morning, where Feaster was dining with former Town Manager and former Judge Francis T. Crimmins, Jr., Feaster said, “Mike [Hartman] and I have been transitioning for two weeks, so it’s gone well.  Mike is a different personality than me.  He’s quiet and reserved.  I’ve given him a great orientation.  He’s met every department head and gone to every building in town, except the armory and the library. He’s been briefed on the budget.  I feel pleased that he is well prepared.  Last week, we both were in the manager’s office together. No problem. I pulled my papers for Pct. 4 Town Meeting rep, so I’ll still be around,” Feaster said.  

When asked to name his greatest accomplishment in office, he responded, “Moving the town’s business forward.  I came in starting with a budget I didn’t know.  I was able to move forward what the selectmen had proposed.  My hiring choices have been a close second. I think many great quality people have joined the team.”

Meanwhile, Michael Hartman is the latest Town Manager for the Town of Stoughton.

Hartman is a resident of Canton, and is celebrating his new shorter commute. Since 2007, he has traveled from Canton to Jaffrey, NH (population 5800), serving as their Town Manager. He supervised all departments there, prepared budgets, negotiated contracts and collective bargaining agreements, and served as procurement officer and personnel director. 

Hartman has a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Iowa, and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Illinois. Previous to the New Hampshire job, Hartman was Town Administrator of Wareham (2001-2007), Medway (1998-2001), and Warren, RI (1995-1998). He served as Assistant City Manager in Meriden, CT, Director of Community Services in Scott County, IA, and Assistant Administrator of the Iowa Department of Human Services. He is a member of the International City and County Management Association. 

I had a sit-down with Mr. Hartman in the Yaitanes Room last week, which was set up by Mr. Feaster. I asked Hartman if he knew what quicksand he was stepping in, and he mentioned that he was familiar with the past police scandal, and the highly-charged political atmosphere, but was looking forward to taking over in Stoughton.

“I really do try to avoid getting involved in political battles, and taking sides,” he told me. I had warned him not to get involved in the political mud, which had sunk a number of Chief Executives here before him. He seemed a bit nervous, talking to the Rasputin-like interviewer, but appears ready to get to know all the players in town, and each department in the municipal government.  

After awhile he relaxed and said that he had been reading up on the town (hopefully with Stoughton Patch, About Town and Snyder’s Stoughton!), and he was looking forward to working with the Board of Selectmen who had hired him.

He intends to sit down at length with every Department Head, and get to know them, their staff, and their needs. He is going to get to know the proposed budget for Fiscal 2014, as he will be the point man at May’s Annual Town Meeting.

As always, this Town Meeting will feature the annual battle between the municipal departments and the school department for a chunk of the fiscal pie. In recent years the Finance Committee, under the leadership of Holly Boykin (who has since moved out of state), has trumped the Board of Selectmen and Town Manager. Hartman has a chance to show he is in charge—and in command of the necessary knowledge, at Town Meeting.

Until then, he starts off with a clean slate, and more experience than anyone who has ever sat in the corner office in Stoughton’s historic Town Hall.   Feaster put a new roof on it, and Hartman is looking to institute his own style under that roof.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY (Thursday): To Attorney Herbert R. Rosen of Financial & Legal Consulting Associates of Stoughton; and to singer Nicole Caramanica, who has performed numerous times in Stoughton, with town native Joe Kidd.

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HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY: To my cousin, Lisa Berenson, a former Stoughton resident, now living in Norwood.  She is Director of Educational Programming and Development for the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts; to Stoughton resident Debbie Hickey, who works at Forced Air Systems, Inc. of Stoughton; And to Russ Goldstein, Stoughton resident, of Great Woods Shuttle, Inc.  They all celebrated Wednesday.

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