Most residents agree that Harvard is a nice place to live, but it might not be such a great place to work in town government. There has been a brisk turnover of Finance Department employees in recent years, capped by the resignation last week of Finance Director David Nalchajian after only 21 months on the job. Nalchajian’s departure for a new job in Hopkinton comes at the beginning of budget season in Harvard, when his experience and judgment are sorely needed. It’s worth asking what Hopkinton offers that Harvard doesn’t.
At this week’s Select Board meeting, a consultant from the Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management at UMass Boston gave a report on her audit of the Police Department, one of a series of departmental audits the board has commissioned in recent years. She reported that Harvard has had a hard time attracting police recruits, that police salaries here are not competitive, and that morale has suffered as the understaffed department struggled to fill shifts. But she praised Chief Ed Denmark’s leadership style for fostering a culture that has encouraged officers to stay in Harvard despite those difficulties.
The police audit identified problems and suggested practical solutions, as did previous audits of the Fire Department, the Department of Public Works, and the Ambulance Service. The results have been positive in every respect.
Perhaps the Select Board should consider commissioning an audit of Town Hall operations next.