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Selectmen appoint interim town administrator

by Lex Thomas

On December 3, Michael Szlosek was appointed as the town’s interim town administrator and procurement officer, effective immediately. Szlosek is a native of Ludlow, where he lives with his wife and child. The hour-long commute each way to and from Sterling doesn’t trouble him. He claims he’s never missed a day’s work due to the weather.

Szlosek holds a Juris Doctor degree from the Boston University School of Law and an MBA from UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Business.

Although his working hours are busy and full, Szlosek says the backlog of ongoing projects left behind by former Town Administrator Jeff Ritter, who died unexpectedly in October, has been manageable.

“Jeff did a very good job,” he says, “and the town is well run. There’s a learning curve, because every town has issues that are ongoing.” He added that plowing is an issue he’s had to deal with in many towns, whereas the signage bylaw, a recurring issue in Sterling over the past few months, isn’t one that he’s encountered in the past.

Szlosek has extensive experience as both a town administrator and town manager. In the past, he has taken over jobs from incumbents who left him well-prepared with guidelines and recommendations to assume his responsibilities. “This is a little different, because, obviously, Jeff didn’t expect what happened, so there were no procedures written down for his job, or files with notes left on them. But he was very well-organized, so the backlog has been normal and predictable.”

So far, Szlosek has met with the police and fire chiefs, and other department heads, and looks forward to meeting with others over the coming weeks. “This seems to be a very cohesive and accomplished town hall with a very professional staff,” he says.

When asked about any goals or priorities he has in mind, Szlosek says that as the interim town administrator, his job is to keep the town running and to maintain efficiency until a permanent town administrator is appointed. While he expressed interest in the permanent position during his interview, he takes nothing for granted.

“Right now, I’m an interim, a caretaker,” he says. “I’m a candidate for the permanent town administrator’s position, but I understand that I may not be selected. So my immediate goals are to keep things running, push the budget process along, and prepare Sterling for the Annual Town Meeting.”

However, he adds that if he is appointed as the permanent town administrator, his priority would be to set goals together with the Board of Selectmen.

“Selectmen are the policy makers,” he says. “It’s their role to set the direction for the town.”

Although a newcomer to town hall, Szlosek already calls Sterling “a beautiful little town, a true gem. It’s everything people would want in a New England town.”

Szlosek says that while the agrarian lifestyle and rural atmosphere are what appeal to many Sterling residents, bringing businesses into a community that enhance the town is beneficial.

“A business-free town means people have to drive some distance for all services,” he says. “You can have it both ways. It’s possible to have an economically vibrant town and maintain the atmosphere people value. It’s a matter of making the right decisions.”