By Cary Shuman
James McKenna began his first-ever town manager’s report to the Winthrop Town Council Tuesday night by thanking the nine councilors, department managers, and citizens for the warm welcome he has received since taking office on June 27.
McKenna said that in his first few days as town manager, he was impressed with the quality of people who are working for the town.
“I consider the town blessed by some of the senior staff and the people I’ve gotten to know and appreciate their virtues and talents and their abilities,” said McKenna. “It’s a very impressive staff, and I’m very honored to work with all of them.”
McKenna then gave a glimpse of his management style, having presented to each councilor a self-written brief summary of meetings he held with various local department heads.
“One of the [council’s] main concerns and requests to me is to communicate with you in a fashion and with regularity and consistency in a format – hopefully in telephone and written correspondence – that you like,” said McKenna.
The town manager said he, Finance Director Michael Bertino, and Director of Management Information Systems Michelle Karas, with input from other department heads, are focused on closing the deficit that has resulted from additional cuts in local aid from the state.
“The net result is a negative $772,000 in local aid to the town of Winthrop, so we have to yet, again, due to the large dismay of the community, have to roll up our sleeves and do more work to close that gap,” said McKenna, who added that where the town will make cuts will be determined in the next few days.
McKenna said he held a three-hour meeting with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Jenkins on Monday. “I believe it went very well,” said McKenna. “It was good to sit down with the superintendent and talk about my approach and his approach and how we can work together – how we may disagree, but not be disagreeable, and work on the common problem we face.”
McKenna said he hopes to hold meetings with department managers every two weeks at Town Hall. He then praised the leaders of the Winthrop Police Department and Winthrop Fire Department, Executive Officer in charge of the police department Terence Delehanty and Fire Chief Paul Flanagan in his report. “Your public safety department managers are very much in command and have a nice handle on what they’re doing and how they’re meeting their obligations,” said McKenna, adding that the two departments managed the Fourth of July Celebration in the town very well.
One matter McKenna said he will direct his attention to immediately is the operation and repair of the Larsen Rink. “There clearly needs to be serious attention brought to both an intermediate plan for opening that rink and getting it functioning so that we’re able to meet the needs of the community and also not lose revenue that we are losing,” he said.
McKenna said he also will proceed quickly on executing the purchase and sales agreement for the Dalrymple School property.
Councillor Jeanna Maggio was particularly impressed with McKenna’s first-ever town manager’s report inside the Joseph Harvey Room.
“I want to thank you,” said Maggio. “We receive so much information – everything is clear and it’s out in the open – and we feel like we’re part of it, and I can’t thank you enough. This [summary] is outstanding, and after only four days on the job, it’s a miracle.”
McKenna thanked Maggio for the compliment and pledged that the town manager’s office will continue that level of communication and accessibility with the council.