WELLFLEET — Less than 19 months after taking the job of town administrator, Richard Waldo submitted his resignation to select board chair Barbara Carboni on Wednesday, Dec. 20.
Waldo’s contract requires that he give at least 90 days’ notice of his resignation, but “I respectfully ask that time be reduced to 50 days with an end date of Feb. 9,” he wrote.
He told the Independent that he has accepted an offer to become the director of public works and natural resources in Orleans. “I have a passion for public works, and I have a background in engineering,” he said. “What I have learned is that I want to be where my passion lies.”
Waldo said that he does not want his resignation “to reflect on the select board,” but his letter hinted at the conflicts that have plagued Wellfleet town government this year.
“This decision does not come easy,” he wrote, “but after a long discussion with my family regarding the value and importance of my physical, mental and emotional presence in the lives of our young family, I choose to resign.”
He said on Wednesday that working with the select board “wasn’t always a great situation” but that he was proud of his accomplishments during his short tenure.
Waldo began as town administrator on May 31, 2022. He took the place of Charlie Sumner, who served as interim administrator with Fire Chief Richard Pauley following the sudden departure of Maria Broadbent in April 2021 after just eight months on the job. Waldo was the town’s sixth town administrator in the past decade, according to a state Dept. of Revenue (DOR) financial management review presented to the town last February.
“I was hopeful that he would provide continuity and stability for some years to come,” said select board member Michael DeVasto. “I wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Carboni declined to comment other than to say that the select board would discuss the imminent vacancy at its next meeting.
Board member Ryan Curley, who was ousted as chair by his colleagues in July and told the Independent that the source of conflict on the board was “differences of opinion” about the town administrator, had no comment on Waldo’s resignation.
A Year of Movement
In his year and a half as town administrator, Waldo oversaw the purchase of Maurice’s Campground and its continued operation. The town broke ground on the Herring River Restoration Project and secured additional funding for it. A Targeted Watershed Management Plan advanced under his leadership, including the securing of funding for a wastewater treatment plant at the planned Lawrence Hill affordable housing development.
“Most importantly,” Waldo wrote in his resignation letter, “we were able to get free cash certified.”
Wellfleet’s jumbled ledger was first exposed under Town Administrator Dan Hoort in 2019. The DOR would not certify the town’s free cash — unspent funds from previous years — because the town’s unreconciled cash books meant that auditors Powers & Sullivan could not provide a timely audit. The fiscal 2021 audit finally arrived last March, and after three years without access to the free cash account Waldo announced the certification of $4.5 million on April 21.
Waldo also managed to fill vacant positions after a slew of resignations this past spring and summer. “Progress is made through a good team,” Waldo told the Independent. “There is a really good team here now.”
In his resignation, he wrote, “This town is in a better place than two years ago, and I am extremely proud of what we have been able to accomplish given the circumstances that we faced.”
“We all feel that Waldo has left the town in a much better position than he found it,” select board vice chair John Wolf said Wednesday. “We have plenty of work to do, but we certainly took some major steps forward with him.”
The Role of Disrespect
DeVasto said Wednesday that the select board “certainly can’t expect to retain a town administrator if board members interfere with his administrative role or undermine and disrespect him in public meetings.”
After the board’s reorganization in July, Kathleen Bacon resigned, citing “irreconcilable differences with the board, lack of leadership, and undue stress.”
“I am not surprised about the decision, and I am supportive of it,” Bacon said on Wednesday of Waldo’s resignation. “At some point you have to step away for self-preservation. Rich was on the job every single day, sleeves rolled up, ready to battle it out. And every step of the way, he has had to battle.”
Bacon said that “systemic failures” of leadership have plagued the select board’s meetings. She cited “acrimony, incivility, and five-to-six-hour meetings” that precipitated a letter of complaint to the board from town staff made public on Dec. 5.
“Your failure to support current staff does not create a productive, attractive, or even safe work environment for potential new staff members as well as for current staff,” that letter read.
DeVasto said in an email to the Independent, “it’s incumbent on the entire board to foster a positive work environment and to work collaboratively with the town administrator to advance our objectives. Selectboard members must do a better job in the way they interact with the town administrator, staff members and the professionals we hire to carry out our projects. This is an unfortunate setback.”
Waldo expressed a similar sentiment in his resignation letter.
“The next town administrator will need tremendous and unwavering support from the select board to be put in the best position to succeed or they will undoubtedly fail,” he wrote.
“This next person is going to have to keep pushing that ball uphill,” Waldo said on Wednesday. “I just hope the next town administrator is supported by the select board, supported by the community, and keeps things moving in the right direction.”