The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 4, 2009

Meet Tim Goddard, Town Administrator


photo Rik Pierce

Tim Goddard, Carlisle’s new Town Administrator, is one of seven children. “I remember playing baseball almost every afternoon,” he says, “with my brothers and sisters and kids around the neighborhood. I think we had a lot more unstructured time back then. Those were the days before a lot of scheduled after-school activities and video games.” The Goddard family lived in Littleton, a small town which, like Carlisle, has seen a lot of changes over the years, from population growth to the evolution from a rural atmosphere to a more suburban one, with developments of new and large homes mixing in with horse farms, fields and orchards.

Goddard still lives in Littleton and has a family of his own now. Three children, ranging in age from ten to 25, represent a cross-section of interests and expertise. Goddard notes that the youngest, a fifth-grader, is a “reader,” and like his father, an avid baseball player; his daughter, a junior at UMass Amherst, her father’s alma mater, is a Dance major. The proud father shows off a photo/screen saver of a lovely ballerina in an extended arabesque, and explains that the ballerina will be studying next year in England, where she will experience the Royal Ballet and get further exposure to classical ballet. Goddard’s eldest son is a graduate student in History at the University of Connecticut and plans to teach when he completes his degree.

A History major at UMass Amherst himself, Goddard still likes to read in the subject, but quickly developed an interest in town government and did his graduate work at UMass in Public Administration. His career began in planning transportation, land use and other municipal needs at the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments, based in Lowell. This organization, he says, is structured like the “MAPC (the state’s Metropolitan Area Planning Council). It is a regional planning commission for metro-Lowell, and deals with all sizes of communities, from something as large as Lowell to small towns like Dunstable. It gave me a great overview of municipal government and planning and really sparked my interest.” In Littleton, Goddard served on the Housing Authority, Planning Board, and Board of Selectmen before becoming Town Administrator there in 1997, a position he held until 2006.

That year he became the Assistant Town Manager in Framingham, a large community that encompasses both rural and more urban and suburban areas. “This was great professional experience,” Goddard says, adding that just by virtue of its size and variety, Framingham provided him in his three-year tenure there with information it would take “eight to ten years” to collect in a small town.

Coming home to small town values

Although he appreciates the time he spent and experience he gained in Framingham, Goddard is excited about his move to Carlisle in September of this year. “I have small-town values, “he says. “I like the spirit, the sense of community, of a town like [Carlisle]. People are out there putting the town’s interest first, and there is a real wealth of talent on Carlisle’s boards.”

Goddard comes on board at a critical moment in Carlisle’s economic planning. Although he admits that he is still learning his way around Carlisle, he has been doing a lot of listening, meeting with town boards and committees and familiarizing himself with Carlisle’s infrastructure. So far, he sees the two most distinguishing factors in the town’s character, “guideposts, if you will, to what the town values,” as our educational system and our value for open space and conservation land. “In a town where people pay as much as Carlisle does in real estate taxes,” he says, “high expectations for public services are understandable and not unreasonable. We need to look constantly at those services: what are our core functions and are we focusing on them? We need to constantly reassess our own departments. I’m working now to get my arms around the budgets that the town administrator deals with, asking those questions.”

He adds that, “towns all over the country have been facing economic challenges. Thirty positions were lost in Framingham last year, for example. That’s a big number.” He goes on, however, to say that the way to get through economic challenges is to “see opportunities in the challenges, question conventional wisdom and be willing to look at doing things better and more efficiently at every point. Change is inevitable, but it isn’t necessarily a negative.” Sometimes, he says, getting the most out of every dollar does not mean retrenching in every department. “When there is an increasing workload [in a department], it doesn’t necessarily make good economic sense to cut back its personnel.”

One initial change that Goddard has instituted in Carlisle is to ask department heads to meet with him biweekly instead of only monthly. “I think we need that for better, more current communication,” he says. “It helps me to be aware of what is going on in each department and to get a picture of the town as a whole too.” He notes that the Finance Committee (FinCom) and the Structural Financial Planning Committee are working to look at departments and seek ways to increase efficiency and maintain services. “They are working separately at the moment,” he says, “but will eventually come together on [plans and recommendations]. It’s a concurrent process right now.”

Primary goal: customer service

Early goals that Goddard has set for himself and the town include the idea that “although things are already done well here, we can always improve, we can always do better.” Goddard would like everyone in town to perceive Town Hall as “customer friendly.” “Town Hall is something like a business and the townspeople are something like its customers. We should perceive it that way, and put our emphasis on customer service.” He sees a large part of his own job as “being available to town boards, being a source of information, getting around to all those meetings and helping the boards and committees in whatever way I can.” A recent test was the recent failure of the Highland School boiler. The Highland Building Stabilization Committee called on Goddard to recommend emergency measures. Working with Carlisle Public School Building and Grounds Supervisor David Flannery, Goddard quickly provided information about temporary and permanent heating options, assisting the committee to decide how to repair or replace the boiler and keep the building stable during the process.

Goddard appreciates the openness of the floor plan at Town Hall. “No one’s closed off in a corner,” he says, and that helps to improve communication between departments there. He also appreciates the willingness of all the town boards, committees and departments to work together. “I’m not sure yet how the economic scenario will play out or how much ‘cross-pollination’ there will be. Everything is in the planning stages right now, but there’s a great cooperative spirit here.” He grins and says, “It’s still early, but I like it here already.” ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito