By Bill Kirk and Dustin Luca
---- — One candidate touted his efficiency in the workplace.
The other spoke about her skill in training employees.
But neither seemed to be the right fit for the next town accountant.
After conducting 45-minute interviews with the two finalists last week, the Board of Selectmen Monday night sought to re-open the application process, better define the position and speak with others about how Andover might attract stronger candidates.
The finalists — Charles Nickerson of Rochester, N.H., who currently serves as accounting manager for Rockingham County in Brentwood, N.H., and Karen Repucci of Topsfield, who is currently assistant town accountant in Ipswich — were selected from a six-person screening committee, which reviewed the resumes of 23 potential candidates.
Under the town charter, selectmen oversee the town accountant, including the hiring of the position.
Discussing the opening Monday, Selectman Paul Salafia said “this job was a little bigger than the candidates could provide.”
“I don’t want to discourage them in any way, because they were terrific candidates,” Salafia said. “But I think this is a job that their experience didn’t relate well enough to make me confident.”
Board Chairman Alex Vispoli said selectmen had to either “go forward with one of these two, or we repost it.”
“If we decide to open the process again, what are those things we’re looking for, and just make sure those are in the job description of the next posting,” Vispoli said.
Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski likened the outcome to a prior talent search the town did to fill its school business manager position, which required a second go-around after the first field of candidates was deemed insufficient.
“This has a very similar feel,” Stapczynski said. “I think we went out twice, at least twice. You may want to ask (human resources director Candace Hall). Similar pool of candidates, so ask her what they finally had to do.”
At last week’s interviews, Nickerson, who described himself as “efficient and dedicated,” told selectmen he would conduct internal audits of town departments by first analyzing their financial procedures. Then, he would start looking for problems like misappropriation of cash and how to reduce the risk of fraud. He said he would also focus on saving the town money and getting his employees to work more efficiently.
Before working for Rockingham County the last four years, Nickerson worked at Pan Am Railways in Portsmouth, N.H., where he was director of accounting, and also held accounting positions with several other companies. He graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1994 with a degree in business administration and management and earned an associate degree in accounting from the former McIntosh College in Dover, N.H., in 1997.
Repucci, meanwhile, has been with the town of Ipswich as assistant town accountant since 2007. Before that, the 1989 graduate of Salem State University with a degree in business administration worked for the state auditor’s office and for 15 years as inventory control manager for Levitz Furniture before the company went out of business.
In Topsfield, Repucci said she posts revenues and expenses monthly on the Ipswich town website and is working with the town manager to adopt a program called Open Checkbook, which puts all the town’s expenses online.
“You can see who (checks) are made out to and anything else you want to see,” she said. “It should be all made public. Sometimes it can cause some issues, but you have to go with the times. You can’t fight it, you might as well go along with it.”
While Andover is more than twice the size of Ipswich, Repucci said the main difference she saw between the two communities would be in the volume of revenues and expenses coming in and out. She noted that Ipswich, like Andover, has a AAA bond rating, which enables it to get the lowest interest rates for borrowing money.