FRAMINGHAM – Mayor-elect Charlie Sisitsky is unequivocal about his plans when he takes office on Saturday.
“I just have to be a good mayor (who) provides the best services to citizens,” he told the Daily News. “I don’t want to be a gatekeeper. I don’t want to be a mayor of Facebook. I want to be a mayor who reaches out to citizens and involves more and more people in government.”
Voters overwhelmingly chose Sisitsky over incumbent Yvonne Spicer in the November 2 municipal elections, since he won 8,283 votes against 3,909 for Spicer. It prevailed in all of the city’s 18 constituencies except two.
Navigating his transition since then, he said he felt like “sort of starting with an arm tied behind me.”
Shortly after Saturday’s inauguration, he will attend a city council meeting to ask the panel to allocate funds for a director of human resources and a director of planning and community development. These posts, among others, were cut from the budget by the city council to pressure the city to find ways to save money between the city and the human resources departments of the schools.
Sisitsky said he needed to have in-depth meetings with the division heads as he had yet to receive the transition reports he requested from the current administration. (After his interview with the Daily News, Sisitsky has since received the report). The city is also seriously behind in developing the budget, which faces an imminent submission to council in May, according to the incoming mayor.
âThere’s a lot of catching up to do, a lot of cleanup to do before we can even get involved in new projects,â Sisitsky said.
In an interview with the Daily News, Sisitsky spoke about his priorities and his burgeoning administration.
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Framework for setting up the transition team
While setting up his administration, Sisitsky said he listened to what the public sees as his priorities.
Nine sub-committees will help frame his first term. Sixty people work in these groups, which delve into: Intergovernmental Affairs, Diversity Equity Inclusion, Environment, Seniors, Leisure and Cultural Affairs, Health, Operations / Personnel, Education and Economic Development.
Sisitsky said he chose these nine key “pillars” as areas to explore further during his campaign.
“This is what interests people the most,” he said. “I wanted to keep talking about it … the city is dealing with these issues and maybe there is a way to do it better.”
He said he expects to see reports from each group in January. He also hopes that at least part of the team can continue to volunteer to find ways to make the city more efficient.
School committee chair Adam Freudberg, who is co-chair of the education subcommittee, said the group will contact interested parties, such as the Bilingual Parents Advisory Council or the Framingham Families for Racial Equity in Education, to collect their comments.
âOur scope is not just FPS (Framingham Public Schools),â Freudberg said. âWe are looking at education broadly and making sure that we are looking holistically at K12 all the way to college through the workforce pipeline. “
Freudberg encouraged residents to contact the subcommittee co-chairs if they have any suggestions, saying “often the best ideas come from the public.”
The team takes shape
Meanwhile, Sisitsky’s administration began to take shape.
“We are working very hard on outreach, talking to as many people as possible to seek out the best and the brightest,” said the incoming mayor. “We are focused on finding minorities and multilingual people to represent the diversity of Framingham.”
Her most recent appointment, Susan Nicholl, Chief of Staff, spent more than three years as District Liaison to Senate Speaker Karen Spilka and for many years served as Director of the MetroWest Visitors Bureau. Nicholl will assume the functions of Senior Advisor for External Relations and oversee the administrative staff of the elected mayor, including the positions of Information and Citizen Participation Officer.
She will also work with Sisitsky to reach out to a diversity of people “to ensure they have opportunities in the new administration,” according to a press release.
In a statement, Nicholl said she was “grateful to Mayor-elect Sisitsky for this opportunity to apply my experiences in the State Senate and in our community of Framingham.”
“Her focus on creating an inclusive and engaged Framingham has certainly resonated with voters, and I am delighted to be part of the team effort to make it happen,” she said. .
When making appointments, Sisitsky said he hopes to select a mix of people with a deep understanding of Framingham and add new faces who may have never worked for the city before, but who are also familiar with the community.
âIn my immediate staff, I wanted them to be familiar with Framingham. I didn’t want to bring in a bunch of strangers who have no basic or historical information about Framingham,â Sisitsky said.
It’s a problem he thinks Spicer made with his administration. He said that at first people called the Memorial Building and had difficulty trying to get answers to questions such as how to get a building permit.
Sisitsky brought in Framingham Inspection Services Manager Michael Tusino and Wayland City Administrator Louise Miller to serve as COO and CFO, respectively. Tusino is a long-time municipal worker who has been in his current role since 2012.
âHe knows his way around the town hall,â Sisitsky said. “He knows how the different departments work and I thought he would be ideal as a COO.”
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Miller’s end date for his job at Wayland is Jan. 21, according to the city’s board of directors. Sisitsky said he was looking for someone who had a deep understanding of municipal finances and considered it the right choice, with his years of experience.
In the past, Miller was Budget Officer at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, Budget Manager at Medford, and Supervisor of Administrative Services at the Department of Public Works at Needham.
âShe’s already started looking at the numbers and getting ready to start working on the budget,â Sisitsky said. “The budget has to be submitted by May 1 and they haven’t started working on the budget yet. So we don’t have a lot of time to do it.”
” New culture “
Running for office, Sisitsky often stressed to voters that he would bring “civility” back to city politics. He said the team will “create a new culture” in Framingham where “we are respectful to citizens and respond to their requests in a timely manner,” Sisitsky said.
âWe are going to change the way we do business at City Hall,â he said.