Springfield’s town manager retires

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – At its Feb. 10 regular meeting, the Springfield Selectboard announced the resignation of Town Manager Tom Yennerell, the hire of a new town manager effective April 1, and the appointment of an interim manager.

A native of southwestern Pennsylvania, Yennerell has served the town since October of 2014 when, at the age of 61, he left his position as town administrator of Henniker, N.H. to move back to Vermont, a place he considered home for several years. Yennerell succeeded Robert Forguites, who retired in 2014 and passed away in April of last year.

Tom Yennerell resigns as Springfield Town Manager.
Tom Yennerell retires as Springfield Town Manager. Photo provided

Yennerell has roots in Vermont that go back to 1981 when he bought the Pittsfield Inn and owned and operated an outdoor adventure touring company, Escape Routes. While a resident of Pittsfield, he served on the Selectboard for six years, was chairman of the Planning Commission, and in 2001 was named the executive director of Vermont Mountain Bike Advocates. Throughout the years, he managed to serve the town of Rutland on two separate occasions, the last ending in 2007 when he left Vermont and moved to Mancos, Colo. to fulfill a desire he had to work out west. He held the position of town administrator there for five years but missed Vermont and New England and returned to New England in 2013, taking the Henniker position. He holds a Bachelor of Science in economics from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.

During his time in Springfield, Yennerell has weathered many contentious situations, not the least of which was the 2019 lawsuit brought against the town and Yennerell by the former Police Chief Douglas Johnston, who alleged wrongful termination. The town settled the suit for $250,000 and as part of the agreement there was no admission of fault. This turned a page for the Selectboard and Chair Kristi Morris was quoted as saying, “Now that this process is behind us, our goal is to move toward the future, including a vision for a community policing-modeled department.”

The future plans of this active, career public servant is anyone’s guess, but a member of the town administration told The Shopper this is a retirement for Yennerell. The Shopper reached out to Yennerell, but he was unavailable for comment.

The new town manager, effective April 1, will be Steve Neratko of Dover. Neratko has served as the director of development since July 2017. He is an experienced planner with a history of working in government administration and skilled in nonprofit organizations, land development, ArcGIS, and urban planning. Neratko holds a Bachelor of Science in political science, public and environmental policy, GIS, computer science, and communications, and a master’s degree from Penn State University in the field of community and economic development.

The starting salary for the new town manager will be $108,000 and Neratko needs to be a resident of Springfield before he can come on board. The board moved to unanimously appoint Neratko as town manager and to ratify his contract.

The Selectboard also appointed Finance Director Cathy Sohngen to serve as interim town manager from Feb. 11 through April 2. Sohngen will not have any hiring, firing, or staffing adjustment authority in the interim manager capacity. She will only oversee the day-to-day duties of the town manager with no dual coverage of both her current and interim role. She will revert back to finance director April 2 when Neratko is in position to take the reins of the job. The Selectboard voted unanimously to approve Sohngen’s temporary appointment.

Yennerell’s retirement was actually effective Feb. 1, but the board voted unanimously Feb. 10 to retain his services as a consultant to affect a smooth transition and provide assistance to both Sohngen and Neratko until May 30. As consultant, Yennerell will not be able to exceed 24 hours a week, the threshold that requires contribution to retirement. The board said it is grateful for his agreement to continue to help out with a job that has a lot of information.

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