FINN: Let’s Keep Politics Out of Town Administrator’s Job

Submitted by Jim Finn, Cos Cob

By all accounts, Ben Branyan has done a great job as the town’s COO and Administrator.

Experienced. Knowledgable. Person of integrity. Non-political – all words that have described Mr. Branyan’s approach to the job.

In fact, since Mr. Branyan was selected for this important position in 2015 by former First Selectman Peter Tesei (which was a professional position as far back as the early 2000’s), he has served the last two Republican First Selectmen with distinction and not a hint of politics. Greenwich is fortunate that he’s moving across the town hall quad to the Board of Education, where he previously served with distinction and will continue his focus on serving the taxpayers of the town.

According to the job description posted for Branyan’s current job as town administrator, “the person is responsible for the administration and coordination of the general government functions of the Town, including the day-to-day operation of the departments under the direction of the First Selectman.

Qualifications for candidates include a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in public administration or a closely related field with 10 years of professional managerial experience, preferably in a municipal setting with authority for program direction and budgetary administration. A Master’s degree in public or business administration preferred. Experience working with multiple boards, elected bodies, and ICMA-CM are also preferred but not required.”

At the end of the day, this will be the decision made solely by the First Selectman — and rightly so as the executive has the right to determine who can best advise him on the budget and managing the town’s departments.

However, respectfully, I would suggest that this is no time for a “Friend of Fred”.

Following on allegations of favoritism regarding the award of the concession at the Griff and a consulting contract at S.E. Minor & Co, this is no time to inject more politics in town hall.

Why? We just went through a budget cycle that was a so-called “bipartisan agreement”.

How did that happen?

Because Democrats voted with the Republican BET chair, Harry Fisher, to avoid a disastrous default to last year’s flat budget at the RTM when the budget is approved in May. It’s still clear that there remains a lot of dysfunction in the Republican BET that the chair requires Democrats to get the job done… aren’t they in the majority? Do we need to inject another political figure in town governance as opposed to a time tested Greenwich tradition of having an administrative professional in this role?

There are a lot of smart, talented people in this town that freely give their services to serve on the BET, RTM, Commissions and other aspects of local government that could do this job.

As a former senior executive at Fortune 100 companies, I could do this job.

But I shouldn’t.

Because I am involved in local politics.

Simply put, that should disqualify me from applying.

As we’ve seen during Mr. Branyan’s tenure, there is a clear view of what success looks like in this job. And it doesn’t involve tipping the scales in favor of one political party or another.

Please retain the “honest broker” nature of this role. It is critical in creating an environment of trust in this iconic town.

Jim Finn is a member of the RTM from District 8. His opinions are his own.