GROVELAND — It was a historic vote for the Groveland Board of Selectmen Monday, Nov. 22, as it approved a three year contract to hire Rebecca Oldham as the town’s first Town Administrator.
The three-year contract for Oldham has a salary of $110,000 for the first year, with a $3,300 increase after the first year based on a positive evaluation. Oldham has served as the town’s economic development director since January, and was originally hired by the town as the town planner in 2018.
“Ms. Oldham has stepped up in the interim period and has been assuming the duties of the Town Administrator and getting our town running more smoothly,” said Select Board member Kathleen Kastrinelis. “You can already see the differences just in our meetings alone. We welcome her and look forward to working with her and we’re excited to have an excellent candidate take this job.”
In May, Groveland Town Meeting voters authorized the Board of Selectmen to hire a Town Administrator to help handle the day-to-day and financial operations of the town.
“Similar to the way the government is run over in our neighboring communities of Boxford and West Newbury or Georgetown, the town administrator or town manager in some of those communities are really responsible to the Board of Selectmen for the administration and the coordination of the departments and commissions and boards and just the day-to-day operation of the town,” said Oldham. “I think here in Groveland, we’ve been doing a great job with the way things have been run, and really, it’s just going to be a way of improving upon their operation and providing a more coordinated effort to provide that efficient and productive approach that is needed to bring Groveland to where it needs to be in terms of highlighting our assets and moving forward.”
The town administrator position is really an outgrowth of what Oldham has done in Groveland since coming to the town after working for the city of Methuen.
“It’s really an exciting opportunity,” she said. “I started her in Groveland as the first town planner, so they’ve really had a lot of firsts in Groveland. It was one of those positions that attracted me because there was an ability to do something new and to set the stage and really create something.”
Oldham said she believes she proved the value of having a town planner in Groveland and how that position could be expanded into a larger role in the community.
“That’s when we created the Director of Economic Development, Planning, and Conservation,” she said.
That position was able to create a more streamlined approach for a number of town boards and commissions coupled with a more coordinated approach for looking at the challenges facing Groveland.
During the time when Oldham headed the economic development department, the town was already moving toward a Town Administrator model of government, trying to gain buy-in from the public and determining how the position would operate.
“I never really thought of being the town administrator, but once the job was advertised, it was really quite humbling and flattering the amount of people who approached me and said (I) would be great for this job,” said Oldham.
Those who approached Oldham pointed out that she was a community organizer who builds teams and brings people together in a transparent manner.
The town received 21 applications for the position and interviewed six people before the Board of Selectmen voted to appoint Oldham.
Now that the position is officially hers, Oldham said she is looking forward to undertaking a number of initiatives, including a master planning process for Groveland.
“I think Groveland has a lot of great assets,” she said. “We have a lot of open space, we have a quaint town center, and we have great neighborhoods. We have a lot of great assets, we really just need to enhance those, and we need to improve upon our open space to improve access and maintenance.”
Oldham said the town also needs to work to maintain its roads and improve pedestrian access throughout Groveland.
“In addition, we need to support our existing business community,” said Oldham. “Although it is relatively small, it still needs our support that they need in order to stay in Groveland and grow.”