Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski’s announcement this week that he will end his career as Andover’s town manager in June, after 25 years at the helm, is significant on many levels.
Under Stapczynski, the town entered the new millennium and, by all accounts, has made significant strides since the 67-year-old town manager made the move to Andover in 1990.
Stapczynski arrived here from Wilmington, where he had served as town manager for the previous 9 1/2 years and before its assistant town manager.
He continued that steadfast loyalty to a community — and then some — in Andover, where he not only worked, but he and wife, Sandy, lived and raised their two sons.
Stapczynski may not have been a native of Andover, but his respect for the town and its residents has always been genuine.
The town manager has not been without his critics. But no one can spend 25 years in a job — especially one in the public sector — and not encounter some foes. But few can probably argue that Stapczynski did not operate under the principles of fighting for what he thought was right and best for Andover. And for that he deserves the town’s respect and appreciation.
There will be much looking back these next six months during Stapczynski’s final weeks on the job, with plenty of time to recount the town manager’s achievements and perhaps even some missteps.
But most immediately, the town must act quickly to look ahead. Selectmen Chairman Daniel Kowalski thanked Stapczynski for providing his board with six months’ notice of his planned departure so officials can launch a comprehensive search for his replacement.
Six months may seem like more than enough time to compete the process, but the truth of the matter is it’s not.
Given what’s at stake, time is of the essence.
We applaud selectmen for scheduling a meeting Friday morning to begin reviewing the process for finding Stapczynski’s successor.
The task of choosing the town’s hired manager is perhaps the single most important responsibility that the selectmen are charged with. The fact that this responsibility has not come into play for a quarter-century makes it even more crucial.
An executive search firm will likely be hired to solicit candidates and identify finalists. A dedicated search committee, as suggested, that can work to review those finalists and help guide selectmen in reaching a decision would be a wise move as well. The decision is too important to not seek out the involvement of as many trained professionals and opinions of as many townspeople from different sectors as possible.
We would also suggest that the selectmen use this opportunity to consider their expectations for the next manager and the issues they believe will be most integral for the community in the next five to 10 year.
It may also be useful to review the manager’s role as written in Andover’s town charter. Of particular importance are areas of authority — of the selectmen versus the town manager. While those particulars would likely require a charter change and approval of Town Meeting, it’s much easier to tinker with job descriptions and make adjustments over who controls what before a new manager takes over.
These next six months stand to be among the most pivotal in recent years, perhaps even of the 21st century. We urge town officials and residents to approach them with an open mind and with complete understanding of the significance they stand to hold for the future of Andover.