When Town Manager Garry Brumback retires in five months, it will be as if Southington is selling a classic automobile with hopes of buying a new, shiny replacement.
The decision to advertise for candidates throughout New England and farther will be like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
The baby in this case is Brumback’s Deputy Town Manager, Mark Sciota.
Let’s cut through the murky waters of the facade and explain this scenario. If townspeople of voting age could vote on whether to replace Brumback with Sciota or waste time and money looking for an oak tree in the desert, Sciota would take control with overwhelming support.
Those who argue that Sciota has been a perpetual shadow of the late John Weichsel and would emulate his style don’t know the truth. And, so what? Weichsel proved to be an excellent administrator.
Town Manager Mark Sciota (if chosen) could suggest a new agenda of administration that literally would give Southington a new coat of paint, a vigorous new attitude and a modern, energetic leadership style. Fortunately, Brumback has done a remarkable job following in the footsteps of his processor who sat in the same chair for 44 years.
Sciota is a dark horse capable of winning over the skeptics who never have been in the town manager’s office. The few but angry anti-Weichsel contingents of residents wanted a change in government philosophy. Some whisper that a Town Manager Sciota would be nothing but a replay of Weichsel, much like playing an old 45-record over and over.
Ironically, Brumback hasn’t rattled anyone in the past five years. He has applauded the teamwork between him and Sciota.
Over a decade ago, Sciota was encouraged to leave his private legal practice to become town attorney and deputy town manager to Weichsel, whom at this stage of his long career was already pushing his luck to remain on the job without being asked to retire.
Some councilors from both sides were confident that by the time Weichsel left, Mark Sciota would be trained and ready.
Then, in the last three elections, like hurricane force winds, political power was shifted and only three of those nine councilors were left standing to complete the task. Sciota took the change of fortune like the man he is and has always been. No crying, no resentment as he continued to do his job.
Born and raised in Southington, the energetic Sciota has marveled both friend and foe alike with his ability to be proficient, intelligent, calm, refreshing and terribly professional when necessary. He knows the political players and understands compromise, negotiations and humility.
Yet, the accomplished lawyer and negotiator, can be found cooking sausage and peppers for UNICO events, formerly coaching Little League baseball, serving on the committee to form an Italian Festival, and still finding time to be seen at banquets, formal and informal. Sciota is one of us.
Sciota can function like a spirited lawyer defending Southington to the end while listening to complaints with a compassion not seen or heard in decades.
When Weichsel gave an opinion, whether you agreed or not, he went to the point on his feelings no matter what the subject. When asked whom he thought would be the person to guide Southington when he retired, Weichsel quipped inequitably, “Mark Sciota.” Sadly, his endorsement actually carries little weight now that Sciota’s earlier supporters are watching council meetings on cable.
Mark Sciota has the background, fortitude, savvy, wisdom and intelligence and has perhaps gained the “silent majority” of the GOP-controlled council.
Does Sciota want the job? He is a diplomat. The passion he has for Southington and the youthfulness he possesses, he shies from a public answer.
Is Mark Sciota qualified? His knowledge of municipal government and leadership style as well as knowing every aspect of the town he has raised his family in should push him far above any candidate from outside Southington.
Over the years, Southington has maintained its stability by searching for the best people within its borders. Sciota need not be a sentiment choice. He’s been trained. He’s respected. He’s earned a promotion.
We’ve seen enough of replacing dedicated hometown employees with out-of-towners. Southington stands above our neighbors because we stay parochial.
This charade of casting a net in a lake to catch someone who will remain on the job longer than a mild multi-year contract would be better off returning to shore and hiring the guy who runs the “boat.”