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BRATTLEBORO — Octavian “Yoshi” Manale has been appointed the new city manager. He will succeed Peter Elwell, who is retiring after six years in this position.

Selection committee chair Elizabeth “Liz” McLoughlin said at the special Oct. 12 meeting when the board unanimously approved Manale’s contract which Elwell will leave big shoes to fill.

“We really approached this selection process with concern because of the existing city manager,” she said. “What we found by trying to list all the qualities we were looking for in a city manager [was] that many of us dreaded the change, but I think we found in Yoshi someone we can all be happy and comfortable with making that change.

Elwell, who will retire at the end of 2021, “leaves us with a strong municipal government,” she said.

“I just want to thank the advice […] I’m grateful to have been appreciated, ”Elwell said, noting that he asked them all at the start of the interview to realize that there were“ a lot of different ways to do this job well ”and perhaps to look for someone who would bring “new assets” to the position.

He will work with Manale to make the transition later this fall as the new director steps up with the $ 19.6 million general fund budget he will oversee.

Manale will also be responsible for the water and sewer company funds and downtown parking in the town of 12,000 people where 140 are full-time municipal employees. He will also work with the representative city meeting of 140 members regarding final budget approval, borrowing for large-scale capital projects and other major policy decisions.

An optimistic start

Manale, who is in Europe but said at the meeting he was already looking for accommodation in Vermont and hopes to make the step by Thanksgiving, was among 94 candidates for the job, announced nationally by Mercer Group Associates of Raleigh, NC, a consulting firm that helped the city cast a nationwide net for Elwell’s successor.

Eleven candidates were interviewed via Zoom. Of these, two visited the city and were interviewed by members of the selection committee, department heads and a community review committee.

“I only feel optimism and enthusiasm to work with him in the future,” said Vice President Ian Goodnow, thanking his colleagues for their “grace and humility” throughout. of the long maintenance process.

The native of Silver Spring, Md., Served as deputy mayor and chief of staff for the city of Trenton, New Jersey, from 2018 until early this year. He was also CEO, appointed by and reporting to Mayor Reed Gusciora.

As the board waited for a technical issue to be resolved to bring Manale to the Zoom meeting screen, McLoughlin said she was “satisfied and confident with our selection.”

“I think it’s going to be great for the future of Brattleboro,” she said, noting “Manale’s enthusiasm for government and governance and for getting to the heart of the matter of politics as at the same time, he already really cares about Brattleboro.

“I mean, he’s a frequent visitor to Vermont, but he’s also an enthusiastic, positive student of our city, and I think it’s a combination of dynamite,” McLouglin said.

After about 15 minutes, Manale appeared on screen and accepted the message, saying he would keep his comments until he was there in December, that he was “excited”.

“I was very impressed with not only your energy, your enthusiasm and your experience. […] but also how your energy in short meetings with many of our staff really rubbed off on them, ”said Tim Wessels, Board Member.

“When the city gets to know you, it will see that you are a person with great vision, leadership and experience, and I think we are lucky to have you, and you are lucky. for having us, ”said Daniel Quipp, board member, with a broad smile.

“Congratulations,” Goodnow said, smiling as well. “We have a lot of work to do, so let’s go. “

Time to change

When asked by email why he chose to move to Vermont, Manale said he had met many who had done the same and felt it was ‘time’ for him to make a change. .

“First of all, I’m drawn to the challenges that Brattleboro faces and the great opportunity to be a part of its future,” he wrote.

“Second, I’ve always wanted to work in Vermont. I have been coming to the Green Mountain area for many years to ski, hike and enjoy the serenity of southern Vermont. Finally, I recently learned that my grandmother’s family immigrated to Norwich, Vermont in 1765, ”he continued. “So, in a way, I’m going back to my roots! “

Prior to his job at Trenton City Hall, Manale worked for New York City in the Mayor’s Contract Services Office from 2016 to 2018.

From 2013 to 2016, he was Director of Operations and Budget at Kean University, Union, NJ. from 2003 to 2010.

For much of that time, he simultaneously participated in OptiGov, a web-based business designed to enable citizens and municipalities “to monitor local government spending and find governments to access the best suppliers and consultants at the lowest cost.” reasonable ”, according to a description of the site.

The new CEO received his bachelor’s degree in political science and religious studies from Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ and a master’s degree in public administration from New York University. He participated as a member of the prestigious Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative in 2019.

Asked what issues he says will require his attention when he begins, Manale said Elwell “has left Brattleboro on a sound financial footing” – a basis that could be even stronger with the new federal stimulus funds against. coronaviruses and potential municipal support from President Joe Biden. Better ”, currently in the legislative process.

“I look forward to working with the board of directors and the city committee to develop the best use of these funds,” he wrote.

“Plus, after reading the downtown map, I know there is a real need for more public space for residents to enjoy,” Manale wrote. “Not only that, but making sure the downtown area is safe and enjoyable for anyone who wants to eat, drink and enjoy the number of shops and galleries.”

When asked which of his skills / expertise he believes made him the standout candidate, Manale highlighted his varied municipal experience.

“Many of the issues I have dealt with in other cities, such as climate resilience, the need to increase sustainable development, fair hiring practices, public safety reform, new public spaces and affordable housing is also a problem in Brattleboro, ”he said. wrote.

“I’ve always thought that the size of budgets and the number of residents didn’t matter – all municipalities face similar challenges, but on different scales,” Manale said. “It’s my job to determine what lessons I’ve learned apply to Brattleboro and when I might need to turn to similar municipalities for examples of what our Selectboard and the residents hope to accomplish. “

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