Amherst brings back former finance director part time for budget season

The Amherst Town Hall building

The Amherst Town Hall building STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 02-03-2024 11:00 AM

AMHERST — A former Amherst finance director is returning to town for the next few months to assist officials in getting through the budget season.

Sanford “Sandy” Pooler, who was Amherst’s finance director from 2011 to early 2016, will be coming back on a regular, part-time basis to support the Town Council, town manager and finance team on capital planning and capital projects and financial projections for fiscal 2025, Town Manager Paul Bockelman told councilors on Monday.

“We’re really excited about having him come in,” Bockelman said.

Retired from his position as town manager in Arlington last summer, and as a former chief administrative officer in Newton, Pooler is one of the most experienced and intelligent finance officers in Massachusetts, Bockelman said.

Pooler will provide additional support for the current financial team, which is made up of Treasurer/Collector Jennifer LaFountain and Comptroller Holly Drake, who are co-interim finance directors, and Clerk of the Council Athena O’Keeffe, who is coordinating and reviewing department budgets and developing final budget documents.

Bockelman said he is asking Pooler to handle budget projections and the capital improvement program, and to develop a financial plan for the major capital projects, including the new elementary school that will break ground in the coming weeks at Fort River, the expanded and renovated Jones Library, also to get underway this spring, and a new Department of Public Works headquarters and fire station in South Amherst. Former Finance Director Sean Mangano, who left last summer to work for the Holyoke public schools, had previously put together a financial plan for the four capital building projects.

District 1 Councilor Cathy Schoen, a retired economist and policy analyst who has chaired the Elementary School Building Committee, told Bockelman it is “wonderful news” to have Pooler on board.

Pooler was back at Amherst Town Hall last week to meet with town employees and to attend virtually the Finance Committee. Bockelman said some of Pooler’s work will be done in person, while he is also able to do other aspects remotely, via phone or Zoom, from his home in eastern Massachusetts.

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“We needed some high -level support,” Bockelman said.

The contract with Pooler will likely cover his work for about 10 to 15 hours per week through June 30.

Bockelman said having Pooler back in the fold continues an Amherst tradition.

“The town has a history of very strong finance directors,” Bockelman said, tracing that back to James Lindstrom, Nancy Maglione and John Musante from the 1970s through 2010. Musante held the position immediately prior to Pooler and hired him early in his tenure as town manager. After Pooler departed, Claire McGinnis and Sonia Aldrich served as co-interim finance directors, with Aldrich in the position alone prior to Mangano taking over in April 2020.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.