The City Administration told the City Council on Monday night they are no closer to filling numerous key department head positions than they were last month when the Council brought up the matter.
Several vacancies in key posts like Election Commissioner, Planning and Development Director, City Engineer, Human Resources Director, Library Director and the new Diversity and Inclusion Director remain open and unfilled after more than a month – and in some cases more than a year – of searches for candidates to fill the jobs.
Last month, the Council questioned Mayoral Chief of Staff Erin Devaney about the vacancies and she said they were employing search firms to look for people to fill those much-needed positions, with the Council saying they would like them filled sooner rather than later.
Councilor Fred Capone has been asking routinely about the vacancies and said he is troubled by the continued lack of progress.
“These are big positions to keep vacant and some have been vacant awhile and really need to be filled quickly,” he said.
Devaney said this week they will be re-advertising openings for the Elections Commissioner and the Human Resources Director. For Human Resources, that has been a post that has stayed vacant some time, with Mayoral Staffer Kevin O’Donnell once filling in, and Attorney Lara Wehbe most recently running the office. Devaney said they would be re-assigning Wehbe to the Mayor’s Staff and looking for a permanent director quickly.
Another long-time vacancy was the new Office of Diversity and Inclusion director, an office announced by Mayor Carlo DeMaria in January 2020 and one that still has not gotten off the ground. Part of the trouble with that is not being able to find a director.
Devaney said after striking out on candidates in the first searches for a director, they began speaking with Boston’s new Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Kathryn Crockett. She had advised them to use official searches, but to also work professional networks to find candidates. She was working closely with them on that when recently she resigned her post in Boston and is pursuing other opportunities.
That has put them back to where they started, still looking to get the office moving 14 months after trying to get it started.
Councilor Gerly Adrien said she is very frustrated with having no director of Diversity and Inclusion, and said the vacancies showed to her that people don’t want to work for the City of Everett. She indicated that Chelsea recently had 60 applicants for its Director of Inclusion and plans to announce a director any day in what was a two-month process.
“I worked with 10 qualified people for that position and I followed up with them and I know they applied,” said Adrien. “They were sad to hear that the position opened up again and no one got called. For me, it’s been a whole year that a position like that has been opened up. It seems to me this was a front by the Mayor’s Office – to say they have the position but to never fill it…The question is do you really want to fill the position or is it just a front to say you’re promoting diversity and equity.”
She added that she thinks the mayor has a bad reputation within the circles of municipal government workers.
“It looks to me like these jobs are hard to fill because no one wants to work for him or with him,” she said. “Other cities have opened up these positions and filled them. Our City has to pay taxpayer dollars to go out and recruit people to work for our City.”
Devaney indicated that there is a great deal of problems within municipal government in Massachusetts to fill critical positions. She said there are many outstanding vacancies being advertised within the Mass Municipal Association, and many municipalities report having a hard time filling those positions, she said.
Councilor Michael McLaughlin said he was glad to hear the Elections Commissioner role will be re-advertised, noting that it will be critical to have a new director on Board ahead of the City Election this fall.
“Some of these positions need to get filled,” he said. “I don’t believe people don’t want to come work for the City of Everett. I think a lot of people want to work forward-moving City like Everett.”
Councilor Rosa DiFlorio asked if the City might be paying too little for these jobs.
Devaney said there is some indication that the pay scale for Everett is lower than some of the jobs where applicants are coming from, and perhaps there is a need to increase compensation to attract more people.
Everett seemed to lose numerous key department heads at the end of last year, including the director of Planning and Development, the City Engineer, the DPW Director and the Election Commissioner – among others. The Library Director left in 2019 and the position has remained vacant since then, now being filled on an interim basis by City Solicitor Matt Lattanzi.