Selectmen decide on Jessie Levine, Hanover’s assistant town manager
Born and raised in Hopkinton, Levine was tapped last week to be Bedford’s new town manager after a nearly seven-month search.
A contract between Levine and the Town Council has not yet been signed, according to council Chairman Bill Dermody.
“There is a verbal agreement on the contract, and she’ll be signing that soon,” Dermody said.
Acting Town Manager Crystal Dionne said she had no information on what Levine’s base salary would be. However, former Town Manager Russ Marcoux, who died in November after a sudden illness, was earning a base salary of $127,856.
With her background managing the town of New London for nearly 11 years, Levine is set to take the reins of the manager’s highest responsibilities – overseeing the town budget.
“How do you save for the future when you can’t really afford to deal with the present?” she said, referencing the delicate balance of providing quality services in a down economy.
Still awaiting a final vote by the Town Council on Aug. 15, Levine is wrapping up her responsibilities at her current job as assistant town manager in Hanover.
Dermody said Levine should begin her official duties in September.
Levine, of Springfield, was selected Thursday, July 26, after councilors had interviewed the top four candidates for the job. Levine accepted the offer on Friday, July 27.
Levine holds a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and has completed course work for her master’s in public administration at the University of New Hampshire.
Levine was the town administrator for 10 years in New London.
Before her public management career began in New London, Levine was a legal assistant and litigation manager for two Boston law firms.
She has served as a member of the Board of the New Hampshire Local Government Center, is an active member of the Municipal Managers Association of New Hampshire and the International City & County Management Association, and is involved in a number of civic and community service organizations.
Levine is an alumnus of the Leadership NH Program, the recipient of the 2007 ICMA Program Excellence Award, and was designated as one of the 40 emerging leaders in New Hampshire by The Union Leader in 2010.
“Ms. Levine really impressed the council with her knowledge and understanding of New Hampshire local government, her familiarity with Bedford and the level of respect that she enjoys from her peers and past and current employers,” Dermody said.
According to Dermody, “the amount of research she did before the interview was impressive, she was thoroughly prepared and demonstrated a level of competence and dedication to public service that convinced us all that she’s the right person for the job.”
“We have a strong and capable group of department heads here in Bedford and the council is confident that Jessie will be an outstanding leader and addition to our municipal team,” he added.
Asked what the town’s biggest priorities are, Levine pointed to economics.
“At this point it appears that economic development is a priority, and really facing a budget environment and a tax environment that might get harder before it gets easier.”
It’s also about examining “where Bedford stands as we come out of the sluggish economy, where we stand in the Greater Manchester Area to be attractive for community investment, but also still be a livable community and carry on the recommendations of the master plan for aiming to be a desirable place to live and to work.”
Prior to her interview Levine spent hours reading Town Council minutes, reviewing the town charter, watching meetings on BCTV and reviewing the notes of late Town Manager Russ Marcoux, who died suddenly in November.
Marcoux’s notes were instrumental in helping her get acquainted with the town. She said they read like a roadmap, and offered him a posthumous tip of the hat.
“He outlined areas that he thought couldn’t be addressed in the current budget but that he thought should be on the list going forward,” Levine said. “That was extremely helpful, to know what had been the subject of previous conversations but hadn’t come to fruition yet.”
She also read the town’s capital improvement plan and pored over past budgets and pie charts ad infinitum.
In keeping with the town’s residency requirement, Levine will move to town within six months of assuming the position. She said her mom is currently scouting places, and when she lands on something she’ll find a tenant to rent her place in Springfield.
“When I know it meets her standards, I can come down and look at it myself,” she said.
Part of the problem in hiring a town manager is the residency requirement. Levine said since she’s not married and doesn’t have kids, this was not an obstacle for her.
Her dog, Elle, a German shepherd mix, is the only one who will have to adjust to the move.
Dionne said she’s looking forward to working with Levine.
“I have heard terrific things about Jessie,” said Dionne, who also serves as finance director. “I heard that she has a lot of energy, so I’m excited that the council has chosen someone with that much energy behind them.”
Dionne said the coming budget cycle will not be easy, and Levine is walking in as the department heads begin turning over their budgets for review.
And with rising costs and a maintenance budget, some tough questions are on the horizon. Levine said she is focused on the prospect of taking up these tasks.
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