PROVINCETOWN — How do you build consensus on a vision for the future in a town that needs workforce housing, a year-round economy, sustainability in the face of climate change, a new police station, and possibly an expanded fire station as well?
On Tuesday, the select board voted unanimously to turn that conundrum over to Robin Leal Craver, 59, the former administrator of Charlton, a Worcester suburb. They chose her as Provincetown’s new town manager pending contract negotiations.
All five select board members brought up her 19 years of experience as a town administrator in Massachusetts. She held the Charlton job for the last 13 years, until she received a $400,000 buyout from her contract this year, 22 months early. She worked out the separation agreement after she and the Charlton Board of Selectmen approved a highly controversial host community agreement for a one-million-square-foot marijuana farm in a former apple orchard.
Craver said that she and the selectmen did not anticipate the community outcry over the proposed farm. When they tried to back up and allow community input, it was “too little, too late,” and she decided it was best for the town if she moved on, she said.
Provincetown’s select board members said they were impressed with Craver’s willingness to admit that she had made a mistake.
“It’s important in a professional career to say this wasn’t done right and to learn from it,” said Chair David Abramson.
Craver and the two other finalists — Maria Broadbent, town manager of Berwyn Heights, Md., and Diana Prideaux-Brune, deputy director for planning and development at the Cambridge Housing Authority and a part-time home owner in Provincetown — were picked by a search committee from 42 applicants, said Bernard Lynch of Community Paradigm Associates, the town’s search consultant. The search committee has recommended a salary as high as $200,000 a year with a $30,000 housing stipend, though the salary must still be negotiated. This is well above the former town manager’s salary of $165,353 with a $6,000 annual housing stipend.
Craver lives in Webster but must move to Provincetown as required by the town charter.
“I’m truly honored and excited,” Craver said by phone Tuesday. “My husband and I spent the last few weekends there and I truly look forward to being part of the community.”
Select board member Louise Venden said Craver had good ideas for community outreach. On Monday, when all three finalists were interviewed, Craver said that in Charlton she held monthly department head meetings in business and community buildings, anywhere but in town hall. She also held meetings with all town boards and committees to pull together all the volunteers. And, she said, she had good relations with the press.
“They have my cell phone and the ability to get to me if they have questions,” Craver said.
Her community involvement included judging a blueberry pie contest, putting herself into a dunk tank, and walking in parades, she said.
“She’s clear and she enjoys her job,” Venden said.
Craver attended Bristol-Plymouth Regional Vocational Technical School in Taunton and has a master’s degree in public administration. She said she wanted to be town manager in Provincetown because of her interests in climate change, the environment, and economic development.
“I also liked Robin,” said select board member John Golden. “She had this quiet strength and this demeanor. … It’s indicative of her management style. … She isn’t bossing everyone around. I felt comforted talking to her.”
One of Craver’s big accomplishments was negotiating a $30 million settlement for the town of Charlton with ExxonMobil due to water contamination.
Select board member Bobby Anthony said that he was impressed with her experience with budgeting and other municipal duties.
“And, like David said, when you make a mistake you just have to own up to it,” Anthony said.
All three candidates deserved thanks for their efforts, said select board member Lise King, noting Diana Prideaux-Brune’s ideas for housing in Provincetown.
Prideaux-Brune said on Monday that workforce housing should be the town’s focus.
“I don’t think there are quick solutions,” Prideaux-Brune added. “Provincetown cannot solve this by itself. There is not enough land. It has to be a regional solution. The Outer Cape has to look to each other. … If we look in isolation, we’ll be fighting [for] one unit at a time, and that’s a very hard way to solve the problem.”
King also made Craver her top choice.
“When you’re working inside these walls, you get to know the tangles,” King said. “The final analysis for me is Robin is stronger because of her many years of experience in Massachusetts.”