New Westfield assessor sought

Westfield Assessor James M. Pettengill will be retiring from his position. Members of the Board of Assessors met this morning to discuss a possible change to the present job description. (File photo by chief photographer Frederick Gore)

WESTFIELD – The Board of Assessors began the process this morning of hiring a new City Assessor to replace James M. Pettengill, who is retiring from that post later this fall.
The board called an emergency meeting for 9 a.m. to discuss, and approve, the job description for the position which Pettengill has held for more than 10 years, and to begin the process of advertizing the position.
Jeff Krok, assistant personnel director, said yesterday that Pettengill notified Mayor Daniel M. Knapik of his decision to retire in late August and that the hiring process may be similar to the process now being used to replace Greg Kallfa who is retiring next month after serving as the City Treasurer for nearly 30 years. The City Council approved a revised job description in July and a review committee was established to screen applicants and present a short list of candidates to the City Council’s Personnel Action Committee for a second round of interviews.
That screening committee was established with city officials who interact with the treasurer. That review committee includes Krok, City Auditor Deborah Strycharz, Susan Phillips of the Law Department, Paul Pasterczyk, the Longmeadow Finance Director, and Kallfa.
Krok said this morning that that option, using a similar review committee, will assist the Board of Assessors in making their final selection.
“We’ll put together another committee,” Krok said during the board’s meeting. “It’s the best process to make it a merit-based process and take the political aspect out of it.”
The board voted to approve the job description used to hire Pettengill.
The board and Krok also reviewed the job posting and agreed to use that information in a new posting to be generated through the Personnel Department.
The board also voted to change other language, eliminating a salary range and posting the job with a clause stating that salary will be “commensurate with experience.”
Krok said that Knapik has the authority to place the successful candidate in the salary matrix established for department heads. The base salary for a department head is $59,676 a year.
The board also decided to add a requirement that candidates be accredited by the state with an assessor’s certificate.
Krok said that much of the candidate review process is the vetting of applicants done in the Personnel Department.
Krok said that he anticipates a new assessor will be in office within two months.
“There may be a period of time when there is no assessor, but the assistant assessors are well qualified to handle the acting position,” Krok said.
Board Chairwoman Grace Sullivan requested that Krok expedite the hiring process.
“We want to do it sooner rather than later because we will have a lapse during the worst time when the city is setting the tax rate,” Sullivan said. “I don’t believe that we will have a new assessor in time for that process.”
Krok said that the Personnel Department will begin to advertise the post next week in local newspapers and through organization such as the Massachusetts Municipal Association. The job will be posted for three weeks.
The board emphasized that it is seeking applicants with experience in the state and knowledge of Massachusetts law.

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