The Wellington Village Council agreed Tuesday, Nov. 10 to negotiate a two-year contract with Deputy Village Manager Jim Barnes to succeed retiring Village Manager Paul Schofield.
While many were surprised when Schofield, Wellington’s manager for the past 12 years, announced his retirement late last month, where the village’s next leader would come from was less of a surprise.
When Schofield informed the council that he would be retiring in February, the next question became whether the village would conduct a nationwide search, a statewide search or promote from within.
The decision was quickly made to bring stability to the village by promoting from within, with an eye on Schofield’s second in command.
“It has been such a pleasure working with you Mr. Schofield while I’ve been on the council, as every aspect of the village operates well under your management decisions. I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for the village,” said Vice Mayor Tanya Siskind, echoing the consensus of the council at the Nov. 10 meeting. “My thought is to promote from within. We are in a very unique position here, and we have someone who can transition in seamlessly.”
That person is Barnes, Siskind said.
“He was my first thought when I got over the shock of hearing the first news of Mr. Schofield leaving. I immediately thought of Mr. Barnes, and I think it is in the best interest of Wellington to promote from within,” she said, pointing out that a search could be expensive and take up to a year.
Councilman John McGovern agreed that Barnes would be the best choice.
“Continuity has become something that is important to our residents and to our community partners and stakeholders,” he said. “We have multiple in-house candidates who could be very strong and successful successors to Mr. Schofield. We have a very talented team that could handle it, but when you talk to them, they have said that Mr. Barnes is the one to carry the mantle forward.”
Councilman Michael Drahos said that a search is always tempting but counterproductive in the village’s current situation. “We have to avoid looking for Paul Schofield 2.0,” he said. “I think Jim Barnes is the best, obvious choice, and that is a credit to Mr. Schofield for allowing Mr. Barnes the latitude to interact with us and grow into the position.”
Councilman Michael Napoleone said that the best option is to leave the village’s leadership team in place. “We have a great leadership team, and if you bring in someone from outside, they are not going to know Wellington, or our staff and our history,” he said. “I think [Barnes] is the best candidate for Wellington at this time to move the community forward and maintain continuity. I think we should negotiate a contract with Mr. Barnes.”
Mayor Anne Gerwig said that Barnes has long been Schofield’s right-hand man.
“Paul Schofield told me almost 10 years ago, ‘Hey, when I’m not here, Jim Barnes is your man,’ and I agree with him, as he has spent this time getting Barnes ready for this position,” Gerwig said.
Schofield himself became manager in 2008 after his predecessor, the late Charlie Lynn, set him up as Lynn’s natural successor when he announced his retirement. All council members noted that it has worked out well for Wellington.
Both Gerwig and McGovern wanted to be the point person to negotiate the contract with Barnes, but the council voted for McGovern to handle the task.
“It is nothing against you, Madame Mayor, I just want to go with the lawyer to negotiate this,” Drahos said.
The council is seeking an approximately two-year contract that does not coincide with Village Attorney Laurie Cohen’s contract or the next election cycle.
Gerwig said that a two-year contract gives the new manager time to get comfortable in the role yet also gives the council time to re-evaluate after a period of time has gone by.