How to Become Our Next Town Manager


The power, the glamour, the joyrides in the police boat … I’m sure you’ve considered applying for the Town Manager position recently vacated by Robin Crosbie, right?

A hard act to follow, if you ask me. Robin served as Town Manager for five and a half years — 41 days longer than Richard Nixon served as President, and with even less scandal.

What next for us? The official guidelines released by the Town are clear — except they probably require a bit of interpreting. As follows:

  1. The Town Manager should be “confident, energetic, optimistic, and a strong communicator.”
  • “Confident” means we need somebody who is not afraid of citizens’ query time during Board of Selectmen meetings.
  • “Energetic” means someone who will not leave these meetings so emotionally exhausted that they barely have the energy to trudge home and open a bottle of Chardonnay.
  • “Optimistic” means someone who can listen to an utterly inane question from a hostile citizen and see the silver lining — saying to oneself, for instance: “There may actually be a 50-50 chance that I’ll outlive this person.” Or: “Every minute I sit here listening to this person is another minute my spouse is home dealing with cat puke.” (I only use a sick cat as an example. The new Town Manager may have all manner of alternative household issues to avoid.)
  • And “strong communicator” means someone who can hear the same question multiple times and emphatically repeat the same answer multiple times without giving in to the urge to scream, screech, squawk, or otherwise ruin the audio on ICAM’s live stream.
  1. The new Town Manager must also “demonstrate prior success in leading a complex municipal organization,” the guidelines go on to say. There is no specific definition for “complex,” but it may be a sort of code word for “Hope you’re okay with our 20 boards, 6 commissions, 33 departments, 18 committees, 4 subcommittees, and 25 separate webpages of policies and regulations.” (Warning to all candidates: Drop the ball on #16, “Sewer Betterments,” and you’re out. Also, please prepare to memorize #6, “Determination of Defense Posture When Town Is Named as Defendant.”)
  2. This job is demanding. “The Town Manager must be a visionary and decisive leader who can work collaboratively with the various interests of Ipswich,” the guidelines state. This would be simple, except for the “visionary and decisive” part, and the “work cooperatively” part, and the “various interests” part. Some various interests want the Town Manager’s vision to encompass wonderful advances for our Town, other various interests envision a restoration of what was wonderful about Ipswich a generation ago. Try working cooperatively with those two groups. I guess this is where “decisive” comes in. You have to decide whom to infuriate, and then keep smiling and nodding while they scream, screech, squawk, and otherwise shred you on ICAM’s live stream.
  3. The guidelines do include some seeming anomalies. There’s a bit about the Town Manager being expected to work with “citizens and volunteers.” I never realized these were distinct categories in Ipswich. I’m surprised to learn that we use only non-citizens as volunteers. This puts a whole new twist on the issue of illegal immigration. But at least we can rest assured that the new Town Manager will sort it all out for us.
  4. The end of the guidelines makes me a little nervous, I admit. This is where it says “The Town Manager should have a visible public presence and be highly approachable.” If someone doesn’t have a visible public presence, they’re invisible, right? Which is just spooky. (Plus, if you’re invisible, nobody can approach you anyway, so we can just lose the “be highly approachable” part.) I’m thinking if Ipswich lands an invisible Town Manager, we’ll rival Salem for tourists at Halloween, which has got to be good for downtown businesses. But the rest of the year, in Board of Selectmen’s meetings, won’t it be hard to know exactly where to aim our screaming, screeching, and squawking?

The job is listed at $164,000 but negotiable. I think it’s worth more. Marty Walsh gets $175,000, and managing the factions in Boston can’t be half as exhausting as navigating the factions in Ipswich. Yes, Boston is four years older than Ipswich, but we’ve held on to more of our grudges.

If you’re interested in the Town Manager job, I’d be happy to hear from you via TownManager?Who?Me? You know what they say: If you don’t apply, you can’t complain. Oh, wait — If you do apply, but you don’t get the job, yes, you can complain. Never mind. We have enough complaining already.



Doug Brendel maintains his largely invisible and unapproachable lifestyle on outer Linebrook Road. But you can peek, and interact, by following him here. Click “Follow.”