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Cambridge Councilors appoint Rich Rossi as the next city manager

Posted by Brock Parker  December 3, 2012 09:48 PM

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Despite some citizen objections to the lack of an extensive search, Cambridge City Councilors Monday appointed longtime deputy city manager Richard Rossi to the city’s top spot next year.

The council voted 8-1 to promote Rossi to the city manager post once it is vacated by Robert Healy, who is retiring June 30, 2013 after 32 years on the job.

Rossi, 66, who grew up in Cambridge and now lives in Watertown, promised hard work and good communication to the council Monday.

“I’m just so happy with this opportunity,” Rossi said. “This is a dream come true for me.”

While Rossi’s appointment drew a standing ovation from the council and some audience members in Cambridge City Hall Monday, several people did raise objections to the lack of a more extensive search for a city manager.

The council had been exploring how to proceed with conducting a public engagement process and an extensive search to replace Healy before a majority of the council abruptly changed course last week and proposed hiring Rossi to a three-year term.

Gary Dmytryk, a resident of North Cambridge, said the city should conduct an extensive search and Rossi should be allowed to apply.

“The course that the council appears to have set just kind of has all the appearances of cronyism,” Dmytryk said.

Cambridge resident Heather Hoffman said the council owes the city the public a process and extensive search it promised.

“I’m appalled, and I’m appalled in a way that has nothing to do at all with Rich Rossi,” Hoffman said.

City Councilor David Maher said the council’s government operations committee has met five times to discuss hiring Healy’s replacement since the city manager announced his intention to retire in the spring.

But Maher said it became apparent that it is going to take some time to conduct a hiring process that would first engage with the community about its vision for the next city manager. He said the council wants to do that, and then use that process to conduct and extensive search for the city manager that will eventually replace Rossi.

In the meantime, Maher said Rossi has a proven track record as a consensus building.
“I believe that this is the right person for the right time,” Maher said.

City Councilor Craig Kelley cast the lone vote against appointing Rossi. Kelley said he’s certain Rossi will do a fine job, but he found the way in which the council arrived at the appointment “bothersome” and thinks the council failed in its responsibilities to hire the city manager.

“Frankly, I’m embarrassed,” Kelley said.

But City Councilor Ken Reeves said Rossi has both the love and understanding of the city that is needed, and he is certain Rossi is the right choice.

“When I put my head on the pillow tonight it’s going to be a good sleep,” Reeves said.

Rossi has served as the deputy city manager since 1981 and has held several other positions with the city working stints in the city’s water department, as the purchasing agent as well as the acting public works commissioner.

The council will now look to quickly negotiate Rossi’s contract. Healy earned more than $336,000 on the job in 2010, which made him the highest paid municipal employee in the state.

Rossi told the Globe that his current salary as deputy city manager is in the mid $270,000 range and while he would be looking to receive a fair contract for his services, he would not be seeking to break any records.

Speaking to the council Monday, Rossi compared replacing Healy to a coach that is called in to replace New England Patriots football coach Bill Belichick.

“That is a tough job,” he said.

--Brock Parker can be reached at brock.globe@gmail.com

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