Sandy Pooler, 2022James R. Feeney

UPDATED April 17: The Arlington Select Board has unanimously named James Feeney as Arlington’s next town manager, to succeed Sandy Pooler after the latter retires in July.

Feeney, now serving as the town’s deputy town manager for operations, is slated to begin his appointment Aug. 1.

“The board is so pleased that Jim has accepted the appointment,” said Eric Helmuth, Arlington’s Select Board chair, in an April 11 town news release.

Feeney's annual salary is $225,000, with 5-percent deferred compensation, 24 vacation days and use of a town vehicle and a town-issued cell phone, Caryn Malloy, town personnel director, reported April 17. She is awaiting a signed contract.

Citing Feeney's work performed in, and with, many town departments, Helmuth said that Feeney’s “institutional knowledge of Arlington is deep and his enthusiasm for public service strong. The board is confident that the Arlington community and our town staff will benefit greatly from his service.”

Feeney said in the release: “Arlington is a wonderful and unique town. To continue serving the community as its next town manager is the professional honor of a lifetime.

“I am most grateful for the Select Board’s ongoing support and confidence in me, and I look forward to continuing working with our excellent staff to deliver high-quality services to Arlington’s residents and businesses,” Feeney is quoted as saying.

At the April 10 Select Board meeting, Feeney said, "When I first started working for the town nearly 14 years ago, I had no idea what a town manager was, or what they did. But today, I can think of no better line of work. I'm grateful to everyone for your continued support, trust and confidence in me. I look forward to continuing to serve this wonderful community, hopefully for many years to come as its next town manager."

Board member Diane Mahon said she looks forward to Feeney continuing to work for the town. "In negotiations, it's important to listen, and I'm confident we'll get that with you," she said. "One of the things that I'm heartened by having Mr. Feeney coming in as our next town manager is not only his 14 years' tenure with the town, but quite a few of our union employees also had glowing remarks about having worked with you in various capacities."

The town manager supervises and directs the administration of all town departments and employees in accordance with the Town Manager Act.

Many Town Hall roles

Feeney's roles have included serving as the acting recreation director, the acting director of health and human services, the assistant town manager and the health-compliance officer.

"My journey has been [one of] seeing the town from multiple angles and on multiple levels," Feeney said during his public interview. "That perspective has been invaluable."

At a board meeting in March, the Select Board asked Feeney about a range of issues, including the town's recently completed equity audit.Select Board logo, 2019

With the audit in hand, Feeney said that establishing the equity dashboard, eliminating language barriers and forming a community-engagement team were among the audit's recommendations that most resonated with him.

"Looking at the totality of the audit, this is going to be a long process. It's going to involve a lot of continual reflection and improvement over time," he said. 

Attract business?

Board member John Hurd asked Feeney in March how he would approach attracting and retaining local businesses. 

"There is no easy or exact answer," Feeney said. "Community and economic development is the single most effective way that we can control the cost of living in our community."

Zoning changes could be required to create opportunities for mixed-use buildings and increasing density so that more people are able to support local businesses, he said. 

But he acknowledged that conversations about zoning are not easy.

"Those oftentimes are the best and most challenging discussions we have as a community," Feeney said. 

Budget comfort

After spending nine months working closely under Town Manager Sandy Pooler, Feeney said, he is very comfortable with the town budget.

"I'm very familiar with the budget process. I've lived it for a number of years," Feeney said in March. "Probably the only person who's read the FY 24 manager's budget as many times as I have is my 8-month-old daughter, because I have a hard copy that sits next to her crib, and I read it to her every night."

Last month, Hurd also asked Feeney about his management style.

Successful leadership is built on a foundation of trust and mutual respect, Feeney said. It requires a leader who will lead by example and build relationships with folks from the top to the bottom. 

"I like to be out from my desk engaging with folks," said Feeney.

Growth area noted

Then-Chairman Len Diggins shared his perspective on the town-manager search as a member of the screening committee. 

"It was easy for me to advance [Feeney] among the finalists," Diggins said. 

However, Diggins did point out an area for growth.

"In the screening process, it became apparent that one of his weaknesses is his regional experience, meaning he doesn't really have a whole lot of connection to the outside of Arlington," Diggins said of Feeney. "But, given his personality, I have no doubt that he will do his best to make those connections."

Watch the April 10 meeting on ACMi:

Feeney's interview lasted about two hours in a meeting delayed by technical issues with Zoom.

The board held an executive session April 3 to discuss the negotiation of Feeney's contract.

March 21, 2023: Feeney, last manager finalist standing, interviewed

This news summary was published Tuesday, April 11, 2023, based on a town news release and YourArlington archives. It was updated with additional reporting by YourArlington freelnacer writer Susan Gilbert and to add ACMi video window. It was updated April 17, to note the salary.

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