Amherst’s tax collector, treasurer to move on

  • Amherst’s treasurer/collecter Claire McGinnis, center, talks with Town Manager Paul Bockelman, right, and assistant collecter Jennifer LaFountain, left. McGinnis will soon finance director for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments in Greenfield. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Thursday, March 08, 2018

AMHERST — Amherst’s tax collector and treasurer departs this month to become the director of finance for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments in Greenfield.

Claire McGinnis, who has also served as the town’s interim co-finance director for the last two years, submitted her resignation to Town Manager Paul Bockelman on Feb. 26 announcing her last day at Town Hall will be March 16. She begins her new job March 20.

“I’m moving on to something new and to have a new challenge,” McGinnis said on Tuesday.

McGinnis came to Amherst as its tax collector in July 2004 and added the treasurer role in October 2010. She has also overseen the town’s parking system and budget, playing a key role in planning for the installation of new parking machines last fall.

Bockelman said McGinnis has been a talented employee who will be greatly missed.

“She’s been a tremendous asset for the town,” Bockelman said.

Linda Dunlavy, executive director at the Council of Governments, said McGinnis will replace retiring Patricia Auchard, who has been the finance director for 18½ years, handling an annual budget of around $7 million.

“We look forward to having Claire join us,” Dunlavy said.

McGinnis praised the team in her office and at Town Hall.

“This town is incredibly well-run financially and been well-managed by a series of managers who all have been a pleasure to work with,” McGinnis said.

Before coming to Amherst, McGinnis was the elected town clerk and tax collector in New Salem. She was promoted to co-finance director in Amherst, with comptroller Sonia Aldrich, when Sanford “Sandy” Pooler left the position in January 2016.

During her tenure, McGinnis brought in new technology in billing and collection, including online payment, laptop systems for ambulances to do automated billing, and direct deposits for employees’ paychecks.

“With the support and hard work of the team in my office, we managed the adoption of new procedures and the use of technology to work more efficiently billing, collecting and investing the funds of the town,” McGinnis wrote in her letter.

Bockelman said he offered McGinnis opportunities that would convince her to stay, but that she was ready for new challenge. “I hope she does even better in her new position,” Bockelman said,.

Dunlavy said the Council of Governments has 45 full- and part-time staff funded through a combination of grants and assessments to towns for municipal services programs, including building, plumbing and wiring inspection, community public health and public nurse, town accounting service and collective purchases.

A transition plan at Town Hall will include assistant collector Jennifer LaFountain and assistant treasurer Cheryl Boucher taking on acting roles until a replacement is hired, Bockelman said.

For Amherst, the collector and treasurer position is one of three important jobs that will be vacant by mid-summer. Town Clerk Sandra Burgess, who has held the position since August 2006, leaves June 30, and Debra Puppel, the assistant to the town manager since January 2011, departs June 10.

Bockelman said he will wait until after the March 27 vote on the new charter, which could affect the roles and responsibilities, before making any new hires. He said he may also hire a consultant to do “zero-based budgeting” to determine whether the town needs those positions at those levels.

Even with the big hole in operations, Bockelman said he is optimistic the opportunity will lead to qualified candidates stepping forward.