MARION — According to Marion Select Board Chair Toby Burr, “if we could clone Judy Mooney, we would.”
But the Select Board can’t clone Marion Finance Director Judy Mooney, and since she announced her retirement earlier this year, the board has been searching for candidates to eventually fill the role.
On Friday, Sept. 22, the board interviewed three finalists in the running to become Marion’s next finance director.
The candidates are: Jack MacDonald, assistant vice president of administration and finance at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design; Heather O’Brien, a Marion resident and assistant director of finance, financial analysis and planning at Ernst and Young; and Tom Valadao, a Marion resident and Boston manager of audit projects at Broniec Associates, Inc.
According to Marion Town Administrator Geoff Gorman, “we have three very good candidates, it’s probably going to be difficult to choose.”
“There is nothing [in their references] that will help you determine the three,” said Gorman. “They’re very glowing reports, which is good news … these people spent a lot of time writing very detailed [references] for all three of these candidates.”
However, despite the candidates’ glowing references and similar backgrounds in finance, all three lack experience working in municipal government.
MacDonald said he was drawn to apply for the position because of a “frustration” in his current workplace and career path, and a desire for a new challenge.
“It’s kind of seeing down the line [and thinking] do I want my current bosses’ job?,” he said. “I’m not sure I do anymore, I’ve been in higher education for 10 years now … and I think I’m ready for a new challenge.”
According to MacDonald, his management style “evolves” during his employment. He added that when he first joins a new organization, he is on a “learning curve … to understand the operation.”
“I am of a younger generation,” he said. “I am a somewhat informal manager but I still hold people to high standards.”
MacDonald said his strengths include using technology to improve efficiency, communicating and working hard. However, MacDonald noted he can “get stuck on something” for too long before asking for help.
O’Brien, who moved to Marion a year and half ago, applied for this position because it “is an opportunity to pivot a little, stay in finance, and be a part of the community we’re living in.”
She described her style of management as “collaborative.”
“I like to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table, that they belong to the team and that they have a voice, [I] make them feel like they don’t have to be afraid to speak their mind,” she said. “I will support and represent them the best I can.”
O’Brien said her greatest strength was “relationship building,” but noted she can have a hard time stepping away from her work.
“I’m very willing to roll up my sleeves and work long hours,” she said, noting that she has had difficulty “actually being aware of that and knowing there has to be some kind of balance,” she said.
Valadao, who’s wife Kaylan Valadao works as an administrative assistant in the Marion Treasurer/Collector department, applied because he wants to “invest in the town.”
“I want to see if I can do something to help the town, but also at the same time [this job can] be a new challenge for me,” he said.
He also described his management style as “collaborative.”
“I never believe that I am the smartest person in the room … I’m constantly being humbled by other people,” said Valadao. “I listen to their ideas and suggestions and take them into consideration. I don’t always go with them but I definitely listen to what they have to say.”
Valadao listed his “outgoing” and “social” personality as a strength.
“I deal with high-level executives … but I’m also dealing with processors and entry level [workers],” he said. “I really have to be able to connect with all of them.”
His weakness is that he often takes too long “listening to everyone … dragging things out longer than I should,” he said.
Burr, Gorman and Mooney, who were on the initial hiring committee that screened candidates, said they all had an “initial frontrunner,” but following Friday’s interviews, they’re no longer sure who they prefer.
“No matter what person we pick, there’s going to be risk involved,” said Gorman. “I had a favorite, or clear frontrunner, during the hiring committee and it’s not necessarily the same decision I would have made on this day.”
Ultimately, the decision is up to the Marion Select Board, who will reconvene on Thursday, Sept. 28 at 10:30 a.m. to discuss the candidates and possibly choose a finalist. A location for this meeting has not been set.