The Marblehead Select Board has hired a new finance director, but Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer said she will not be on the clock until March.
Kezer said Aleesha Nunley-Benjamin, the Littleton finance director, emerged as the top pick in a protracted, months-long search process.
“A tough marketplace for municipalities,” candidates dropping out, and the town’s ability to be selective played a part in the hiring decision, according to Kezer.
“It was definitely worth the wait,” Kezer told the Marblehead Current. “We’ve found someone with excellent experience in municipal government.”
Before Littleton, Nunley-Benjamin served as Medford’s chief financial officer from 2016 to 2021. In that role, she managed day-to-day activities in all finance departments.
Previously, she was the assistant city auditor in Gloucester from 2013 to 2016 and the city’s general ledger accountant from 2008 to 2013.
Like Rachel Blaisdell — Marblehead’s new tax collector and treasurer — and Kezer, Nunley-Benjamin is a Salem State University graduate. She holds a master’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in business administration and certifications in governmental accounting as a public-purchasing official.
“Aleesha brings an open, intelligent and thoughtful communication style and a problem-solving leadership approach,” said Select Board Chair Moses Grader. “We are delighted that she has chosen to join our Marblehead family.”
Kezer and Grader said Nunley-Benjamin’s familiarity with ClearGov will help as the town migrates to the cloud-based budgeting and performance management software.
“In her interview, she demonstrated a strong strategic sense and a ready understanding of the elements needed to strengthen our Finance Department,” said Grader, a former chair of the Finance Committee. “We seek to build our Finance Department into a stronger operating organization capable of more efficiently meeting the Government Finance Officers Association’s standards, providing Marblehead taxpayers more seamless visibility into the town’s finances, and improving the delivery of its vital central services.”
Nunley-Benjamin helped Medford achieve recognition for excellence in financial reporting from the GFOA during her tenure as the city’s chief financial officer. But her time in Medford was not always smooth sailing, according to the Medford Transcript.
She filed a cease-and-desist letter in 2021 against Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn, whom she alleged cultivated a hostile work environment. Nunley-Benjamin accused the mayor of saying in a meeting that “a white male should present the budget to the [Medford] City Council instead of [Mrs. Nunley-Benjamin] since they will listen to a white male.” In public statements, the mayor denied Nunley-Benjamin’s allegations.
Nunley-Benjamin’s arrival in March will fill out not only a position that has remained vacant since mid-June but also the Finance Department’s leadership team.
“There has not been a finance director since I’ve been here,” Kezer told the Marblehead Current. “Michael Carrietta, the former Marblehead town treasurer, served as acting finance director until September.”
He departed for a private-sector job, leaving the town without a treasurer and tax collector until the Select Board hired Blaisdell in early December.
John McGinn, the former town administrator and finance director, came out of retirement to work as a part-time consultant.
“It has been a struggle putting all the development documents together,” said Kezer. “I’ve been working closely with the existing finance department staff to work through the issues.”
When Nunley-Benjamin starts, the town will be well into the fiscal year 2024 budgetary process and debating a to-be-determined general override.
“So I’ll be carrying most of the water until she settles in,” Kezer said. “I have no doubt that she will get caught up quickly.”