PROVINCETOWN — None of the three finalists named this week for the job of town manager lives here, but all three say they love Provincetown. They are the 32-year-old mayor of Holyoke, a woman who blazed a trail in the Boston construction world, and a man who spent over 30 years in nonprofit leadership in Boston.
Candidate Alex Morse was 22 when he became mayor of Holyoke, his hometown. Last year, as an openly gay candidate for Congress, he was the subject of a smear campaign in which he was accused of inappropriately dating students at UMass Amherst, where he lectures. After he was exonerated, his story, told both in the New York Times and in the Independent, highlighted how LGBTQ candidates are particularly vulnerable to such accusations.
Provincetown residents may already know candidate Jennifer Pinck, 65, of Boston. She has had a second home here since 1988. Pinck founded Pinck & Co. in 1999, which she sold in 2019. The company provides owner’s project manager (OPM) services for large construction projects.
Candidate Kevin Hepner, 61, recently left his job as vice president of administration and finance at Roxbury Community College. He said he missed the community engagement aspects of his career in Boston’s nonprofit world, where he worked for years, including at the United South End Settlements, which he left as chief executive officer. What’s notable about Hepner’s resume is the number of nonprofit boards he has been involved with from 1987 to the present: 40.
These three were picked from among 120 applicants.
“We really put out a big net,” said Rick White, the town’s executive search consultant from Groux-White Consulting in Lexington. “I honestly don’t think we could have attracted a better pool.”
White said he screened 35 “serious” applicants and from those the search committee selected Hepner, Morse, and Pinck.
The select board was scheduled to interview them on Feb. 24 and decide on a top choice on Feb. 25 during a meeting to begin at 5 p.m.
Pinck grew up in Belmont. Her mother taught English and at one time was an undersecretary for Gov. Michael Dukakis, Pinck told the Independent. Her father wrote headlines for the Boston Herald, and worked as the researcher or “leg-man” for New Yorker writer A.J. Liebling, she said.
When she started in the construction field, Pinck “was deeply closeted” and “had few allies and few friends,” she told ENR New England in a 2019 article.
She worked her way up the construction ladder and became the first woman to receive a Boston ABC Building License. She also has an M.B.A. Before founding her company, she worked as a construction manager for the Mass. Water Resources Authority on the Boston Harbor project from 1988 to 1992 and then became mitigation manager for Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel project (the Big Dig) until 1996.
Why would she want to run Provincetown’s government?
“I love Provincetown,” Pinck said. “I consider it my home. I have been coming here since college. It’s not a stepping stone in my career. I want to do it because it’s a beautiful place.”
The town’s long-term goals (housing, economic development, and climate resiliency) and short-term goals (getting the police station built) are challenges that meet her skills as a patient problem solver, Pinck said.
Asked about her ability to counter Provincetown’s tendency to get bogged down in controversies, she said, “I was the mitigation director for the Big Dig. It was dealing with a lot of people with a lot of passion, and a lot of self-interest. But that’s how people operate.” It was, she said, “a wonderful experience.”
Alex Morse grew up in Holyoke in subsidized housing, according to his biography on the mayor’s page. His parents started a family when they were just teenagers themselves. Morse became the first family member to get a college degree, he told the Independent.
In 2011, the same year he graduated from college — he has a B.A. in urban studies from Brown — he was elected mayor. He has been re-elected three times.
In the last 10 years “we raised the high school graduation rate from 43 to 73 percent,” he said, adding that the mayor is also the chair of the school committee in Holyoke.
The city got a new senior center and a new library during his tenure, said Morse.
“I know how municipal government works and I know the challenges, and I’m incredibly excited to bring my skills to Provincetown,” he said.
After losing his bid to unseat powerful Congressman Richard Neal in last year’s Democratic primary, Morse wants to return to his first love, municipal government, he said.
Hepner grew up in Pennsylvania, one of seven children. Both parents dropped out of school in eighth grade, he said. His father worked at the Firestone Tire & Rubber factory.
“A tour of that plant made me buckle down and go to college,” Hepner said.
While working as a butler to pay for college, Hepner developed a weakness for bow ties and that’s what he wears to this day, he said.
A certified public accountant, Hepner started the nonprofit arm of O’Connor & Drew in Braintree, he said, and then began to work in management for nonprofits themselves.
“Coming from a low-income background,” he said, he “really understands what the barriers to success are.”
To help the nonprofit United South End Settlements cover his salary, he began doing accounting for smaller nonprofits, allowing his organization to bill them for his services, he said. United South End became a fiscal sponsor for other nonprofit agencies.
Hepner says he wants to be Provincetown’s manager because Provincetown is the reason he moved to Boston.
“I was dealing with who I am and my sexuality, and people told me about this magical place called Provincetown,” he said. “I always wanted to live there.”