Williamstown Select Board approves Robert Menicocci for next Town manager

Ella Marx

The Williamstown Select Board unanimously approved a contract on April 25 for Robert Menicocci to become the next Town manager. Menicocci’s contract is for one year at a salary of $155,000 and can be renewed by agreement for two additional years.

Menicocci currently serves as the agency director of the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency in San Jose, Calif., and has previously been employed by Massachusetts’s mental health and transitional assistance departments.

Chair of the Select Board Andy Hogeland ’76 told the Record that Menicocci’s employment history played a significant role in his selection for the position. “I think Bob has a significant depth of public sector experience in a variety of contexts,” Hogeland said. “He’s got a really strong background in budgeting, public sector management, and social services — which is a place where we could use some extra resources.”

Menicocci, who currently lives in California, will move to Bennington, Vt., and start on July 1 as Town manager in an interim capacity.

While there is no residency requirement for the interim Town manager position, Williamstown’s charter stipulates that permanent Town managers must live in Williamstown. However, Hogeland told the Record that the Select Board has proposed a warrant article for this year’s annual Town Meeting — which will take place in May — that would authorize the Select Board to petition the state legislature to amend the Town charter and remove the residency requirement. Hogeland said that Menicocci “would transition to the permanent position if and when the proposed changes are made” to Williamstown’s charter that would allow him to serve as permanent Town manager while living in Bennington.

The Select Board has also proposed a warrant article for Town Meeting that would eliminate the provision in Williamstown’s charter that prevents anyone who has served in an elected or appointed role in Town government from becoming Town manager within 12 months of their service to “remove barriers to eligibility and broaden the pool for future candidates available to serve the Town.”

“We ran into this problem trying to recruit even interim Town managers since we couldn’t assure them they’d be eligible for the permanent position — even if they performed excellently as interim manager,” Hogeland said.

The Select Board’s decision is the product of its second search for a permanent Town manager and comes over a year after former Town manager Jason Hoch ’95 announced his resignation in February 2021. The Town retained the services of consulting firm GovHR and launched an initial search for a permanent candidate after Hoch’s resignation but decided not to hire either finalist in October 2021, as each candidate demonstrated skill in different aspects of the Town manager role. The Select Board instead elected to commence a second search with GovHR and, six months later, decided to hire Menicocci over Alex Torpey, the other finalist, who has held several administrative positions in local New Jersey governments and was elected mayor and village president of South Orange Village, N.J., at the age of 23.

Since April 2021, the Town manager position has been filled by Charlie Blanchard, a retired Town manager of Palmer, Mass., in an interim capacity following Hoch’s departure. Blanchard will act as interim Town manager — at a reduced rate of 10 hours per week — until the end of June, after which Menicocci will assume the role.

Hoch served as Town manager from 2015 to 2021 and resigned after facing scrutiny that resulted from an August 2020 federal lawsuit filed by former Williamstown Police Department (WPD) Sergeant Scott McGowan. The lawsuit alleged that Hoch did not adequately investigate claims of racial harassment and sexual assault within the department. In the months leading up to Hoch’s resignation, Town residents also criticized him for his November 2020 decision to retain former WPD chief Kyle Johnson after the August 2020 lawsuit, which contained several allegations of sexual assault and racial harassment against Johnson — who then announced his resignation in December 2020.

An independent investigation commissioned by the Select Board found in January 2022 that both McGowan and Johnson engaged in several instances of sexual and racial harassment in the workplace from 2002 to 2019.

Hogeland also noted that Menicocci will play a critical role in the recent joint agreement between Williamstown, North Adams, and Adams to hire a shared human resources (HR) director — funded by a $100,000 grant from the commonwealth — that will cover all three communities.

“Part of the job for the new Williamstown Town manager is to participate in that selection process to fill the HR gap that all three municipalities feel they have,” Hogeland said. “This will be to do regular HR work, but with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and training.”