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Spotlighting Careers in the Public Sector: Leon A. Gaumond Jr.
Meet the public sector talent that makes it all work
Public sector careers tend to take a backseat to their Private Sector counterparts, but not in this series. We’re aiming the spotlight on our public sector partners and the incredible impact they have on our communities and society. From emergency service and healthcare to education and finance, the span of careers in the public sector is diverse.
This week we’re excited to turn the spotlight on Leon A. Gaumond Jr., Town Manager for the Town of Weston, MA.
A Bit About Leon
Leon A. Gaumond Jr. has been the Town Manager for the Town of Weston, Massachusetts for the past five years and has spent his career serving the public in a number of capacities. We chatted about his mentoring of the upcoming generation of public administration and his goals for the Town of Weston
Career Story Interview
Q: Can you tell me what you do and how you got started?
A: My name is Leon Gaumond and I am the Town Manager for the Town of Weston. This is my fifth year here in Weston, and I’ve been a Town Administrator and a Town Manager for the better part of over 20 years at this point. I’ve been a Town Administrator prior to this in the Town of Sturbridge, Massachusetts.
Prior to that, I spent over 10 years in the Town of West Boylston, Massachusetts, and I started my career as a municipal official working in the Town of East Longmeadow. Previously, I worked for 10 years as Chief of Staff to State Representative Paul Caron from Springfield where we did a lot of community outreach, constituent service, and essentially just helping people. I am a graduate of the University of Maryland in their Government and Politics Department, and I got my Master’s in Public Administration from American International College in Springfield.
Q: Can you tell me about the Town of Weston and your department specifically?
A: The Town of Weston is a community of about 11,000 people. It is definitely a residential community; a bedroom community for the city of Boston. We’re kind of known for having larger properties and we have wonderful schools. We are very proud of the school system which was rated as the number one public school district in Massachusetts this past year. We are a full-service community; we operate police, fire department, public works, full recreation, and senior programming, and award-winning library programming. We’re essentially a full-service municipal government.
Our department provides leadership and administrative support for the Town of Weston. We have a three-member elected Select Board here in Weston and that Select Board essentially serves as the chief elected officers of the community, principally their job is to appoint a day-to-day operations manager for the Town, which is the Town Manager. Within this office, we also have Human Resources led by the Assistant Town Manager, Lisa Yanakakis, who has worked for the town for a number of years as well.
Q: What do you wish you knew before beginning a career in public administration?
A: This job is not for everybody, that’s for sure. I will say, the best thing about public administration is your job is to help the general public, help the people of the community and I really enjoy that. The one thing that I think most people who try to come into this field may not recognize is the lack of knowledge that many people have about local government, state government, and even federal government. Prior to my service as a Town Administrator, I was an Adjunct Professor at Westfield State College in their Political Science department. I taught State and Local Government, and it was shocking the level of knowledge that college students had about local government, state government, how it works, and how it operates.
In New England, we have a “Town Meeting” form of government where the public is expected to come together once or twice or more a year to make major decisions about the operations of the community. We vote on our budgets, we vote on any borrowings, and we vote on any bylaw changes that are necessary, both zoning and general bylaw changes, in order to keep the town running properly. It’s amazing how little people know about the operations of municipal government and about state government. And that’s something that I think people who walk into public administration need to know. Not everybody is playing on a level playing field concerning public education; civic education has to be part of our job in order to get good results and satisfactory results for the community at large.
“Civic education has to be part of our job in order to get good results and satisfactory results for the community at large.”Leon A. Gaumond jr., Town Manager
Q: Do you have any goals, either short or long-term as Town Manager?
A: Most of our goals are really project driven in Weston. We have a major infrastructure program being developed right now; the replacement of our water tanks. That is a major infrastructure improvement project that we’ll be looking at for the next decade or so. A significant portion of my job is making sure that the people who live in Weston are satisfied with the service level that they get on a daily basis; whether it’s providing adequate resources for police and fire, DPW, road construction, and education. The people of Weston are very interested in great services. I guess part of my job in the short term and long term alike is making sure that those services are continued to be delivered to the community in the best way possible.
But long term, improving our infrastructure is critically important. Over the decades, we’ve done a lot of public construction projects. We have modified and improved our Town Hall and our school administration building. Our DPW building is relatively new. Our police department is relatively new. We have some relatively new schools. Our future really is finalizing some significant road improvements in the town, improving and replacing our water tanks, and probably making some inroads on our fire stations, which are not really built to today’s modern fire services.
Q: What do you see as a future challenge for the public sector workforce?
A: Well, I think there are several. One of the things that are probably first and foremost on a lot of people’s minds, especially people in roles like mine, is recruitment and retention. COVID really had a significant impact on people coming into and staying in this profession. A lot of people took that as an opportunity to retire. Some people found that public service is really not the career for them and maybe wanted to move on. Communities, even the Town of Weston, have struggled to try to recruit and retain employees who aren’t necessarily just voting with their pocketbooks. They’re also voting on things like quality of life issues. So I think recruitment and retention is a big one, and it’s not just for municipal staff, it’s also for finding great people to run for office and to serve on volunteer boards and committees.
Civic unrest is pretty high. And I have to say that municipal government has for many, many years been looked upon very favorably by the citizenry at large. But even in recent years, we have started to see more civil unrest locally and finding people, good, qualified, capable, competent, and intelligent people to be willing to step forward to run for Mayor, City Council, and Select Board. It’s really been a challenge. I’ve seen even in the Town of Weston, significant turnover in a lot of the elected posts and uncontested races; people who are reluctant to put their hat into the ring and work on behalf of their neighbors to make our communities better places. It’s been challenging finding people willing to make that sacrifice, willing to see their names on Facebook or Twitter for example. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get people to step forward.
Q: What’s your favorite part of working in the public sector that some people might not expect?
A: That’s a great question. I am a big believer in stealing – and I love people that steal from me. We have hard jobs, we all have difficult jobs, we all have emerging jobs, and what might have worked for us in 2020 may not work for us in 2023. I do think that we work well collectively as managers; as public officials. I do have good relationships and spend time talking to my colleagues in the profession. We have a good relationship in sharing good ideas, templates, plans, sharing references on consultants and studies, and the like. I think that if we live within our own little bubbles and don’t look to the outside as to how our neighbors and our colleagues are doing this, I think we do ourselves a disservice.
Looking for best practices and not just looking elsewhere but providing that advice and counsel to the newer managers is equally as important. I know when I first started in this profession, a neighboring Town Administrator was one of the first people to outreach to me and he said “You’re not going to know what the right questions are to ask. Just know we’ve all been there and if you ever need that support there are a bunch of us in the neighborhood that will help you.” I’ve never forgotten that and I try to be that for people who have just started in this profession. I welcome new public servants to the club. They are going to feel overwhelmed at times. Most just need to know that there are resources out there to support them. There is a fraternity and sorority of people in this profession that I’m proud to work with and work along with.
The other thing I would mention is even from a broader sense, there are resources regionally statewide, and even nationally that are at your fingertips if you really are looking for even more opportunities for learning, training, for sharing ideas. When I started in West Boylston, the second community I worked in, I found the Mass Municipal Managers Association, the International City-County Managers Association, and the Small Town Administrators of Massachusetts. This is a great resource for managers of all levels of experience. These are groups of people who hold the same job as me that would get together every once in a while. Sometimes it’s a few times a year, sometimes it’s once a month just to kind of go through training programs, opportunities, thinking about dialogues on how to solve creative problems with creative solutions. There are resources out there if you’re looking. The American Society of Public Administrators is a great one. Regional planning groups are a wealth of resources on a lot of transportation and sustainable issues. There are groups out there if you are looking for answers; there are groups out there that are willing to facilitate those discussions.
Rapid Fire Questions for Fun
Q: Do you have any pets?
A: I’m married and I have five children and I have two pets. I have a cocker spaniel mix named Cooper, and I have a purebred standard poodle named Rosie. I guess they also count as my children.
Q: It sounds like you love being a town manager, but if you had to do another job for a day within your town government, what do you think you would choose?
A: I might be the only person that will come up with this as an answer, but I think working in the library for a day would be kind of cool. It would be a way of servicing the community hands-on and working a different part of the brain. As a municipal manager, we often get to deal with the analytical, the financial, and to some degree, the political aspects of political life. Also, how to deal with people and get everybody rowing in the same direction. But do we always get to exercise our creative muscles? I never thought of myself, and still don’t think of myself, as a very creative person, but if I could ever try to find a way to exercise that muscle, I think it would be fun. So whether it’s in public access television or at the library or even working at the senior center or recreation center. Just working in programs like that would be neat and it would be something that I’d love to try for a day.
More on careers in the public sector:
Patrick Dello Russo: CFO for the City of Taunton, MA
Kate Fitzpatrick: Town Manager for the Town of Needham, MA
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