Finding Marblehead’s next building commissioner proves difficult

Months after John Albright departed the building commissioner post, Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer says Marblehead continues to struggle to fill the vacant position permanently.

Albright left April 30 after failing to take and pass three state-mandated exams within his allotted time frame, despite receiving extensions due to COVID-19 disruptions. The town appointed interim commissioner Bob Ives, but finding a qualified permanent replacement remains an elusive goal, one mandated under state law.

Marblehead Building Department operates out of the Mary Alley Municipal Building on Widger Road. CURRENT PHOTO / WILLIAM J. DOWD

“It’s been a challenge trying to identify a candidate that meets the credential requirements and has the right experience,” Kezer said. “We’ve been advertising and recruiting for months but the candidate pool is very small.”

In Massachusetts, municipal building commissioners must be certified inspectors and pass additional exams within one year of appointment. This specialized skill set has hindered Kezer’s search to replace Albright.

“The licensing requirements make it a hard position to fill. We’re competing with the private sector that can pay commissioners much more,” Kezer told the Marblehead Current. “It ebbs and flows with the economy, and right now demand exceeds the number of qualified people able to fill openings.”

Ives previously served as Marblehead’s commissioner from the early 2000s until retiring in 2016. He agreed to postpone retirement again to help fill the vacancy temporarily.

“I’m glad Bob Ives stepped up to provide us continuity,” Kezer said. “But it’s not a permanent solution, and we need to find the right person to take on this important role.”

As head of the town’s Building Department, Marblehead’s commissioner leads a team of about seven people responsible for enforcing the state building code and the town’s zoning bylaws. This involves thoroughly examining building plans, issuing permits, conducting inspections and ensuring compliance with various laws and regulations related to public safety and accessibility. Kezer called it a “critically important position” for Marblehead.

The town has solicited applications broadly but received scant interest in the $86,654 to $112,651 salaried job. Kezer has consulted other municipal leaders and few have managed to fill commissioner vacancies.

“The pool of available candidates is very small right now and everybody’s looking for them,” Kezer said. “We’ll keep trying but I’m concerned we may need to explore hiring a consultant or firm if this remains unfilled.”

For now, Ives continues serving as interim building commissioner while Marblehead’s months-long search persists to find his permanent replacement.

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