Essex System Restructuring Complete

Essex System Restructuring Complete
Essex System Restructuring Complete

The last step in the restructure of the Essex Regional Retirement System was taken on January 6th when the five members of the new Essex Regional Retirement Board named Charles Kostro as the new Executive Director of the Regional Retirement System.

Kostro has worked for the Town of Newbury since 1996, first as the town’s finance director and most recently as the town administrator. Prior to the Newbury job, he spent 12 years in the Massachusetts Transportation Department, where he served four of those years as Department Undersecretary. He had also earlier worked for the Virginia Department of Transportation for three years.

Kostro’s first experience at the state level was as a legislative aid to then-State Senator Paul Cellucci (R-Hudson). In 1991 Cellucci was elected Lt. Governor where he served with the Governor William Weld. He became Acting Governor in 1997 and was elected Governor in 1999.

The Essex restructure began almost a year ago when the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) removed Chairman/Executive Director Tim Bassett and placed Essex under strict oversight. PERAC then named Andrew Maylor, Swampscott’s Town Manager, as Acting Board Chairman.
Legislation, filed by the Senate, was enacted and signed by the Governor on June 30 (Chapter 131) spelling out the future of the five-member Essex Board, and its System.

The first step in September and October was to elect two members from the towns and units holding membership in the Essex System. Ira Singer, Town Administrator of Middleton, was elected to represent the CEOs of the towns and units. Kevin Mertz, Treasurer of Ipswich, was elected to represent the treasurers of the towns and units.

The next step was to hold an election among the towns and units for two retirees to represent active and retired members of the Essex System. This was unusual in that retirement board elections had always included both employees and retirees as eligible candidates.

Yaskell and Maney Elected to Board

However, seven retirees filed nomination papers by the October 29 deadline and the election was underway. When the ballots were counted on December 2nd, Susan Yaskell, a retired town accountant of West Newbury and Groveland, topped the ticket with 835 votes.

Finishing second, and winning the second elected members’ seat was Joe Maney, a retired Lynnfield Town Administrator, with 548 votes. Although out of the running, retired Salisbury Police Officer George Cole’s strong campaign resulted in 522 votes. Bob Stone, of the Ipswich IT Dept., was fourth with 366 votes.
With the first four members in place it was then the duty of these members to elect a fifth member who was not a member of the Essex System.

There were 30 applicants of whom the Board interviewed a final four: Mike Hanlon, a state retiree and earlier acting Essex fifth member; Joan Fink, a retired Administrative Law Appeals magistrate; Andrew Maylor, the former acting chairman; and Thomas Moses of Rowley. On December 20, Maylor was voted to be the fifth member. The Board then voted to also name Maylor chairman, and everything was then in place to name an Executive Director.

A screening committee had been narrowing some 75 candidates for Director, many with vast retirement system management background. Ultimately this number was narrowed down to three finalists who the Board publically interviewed on January 6th. A fourth finalist, Dale Kowacki, the Executive Director of the Franklin County Regional Retirement System, had been eliminated at a next to last meeting. The final three included the afore named Kostro, Anne Leduc, former director of the Cambridge Retirement System and current director of the Springfield System; Tracy Blais, a 19 year finance director for the Town of West Newbury with a strong municipal auditing background.

Within public retirement circles Anne LeDuc was considered to be the favorite and did receive strong consideration among the Board members. But, apparently the Board was looking at a larger picture than Essex. After much discussion the final vote in favor of Kostro was unanimous.

As reported in the Salem News, Kostro said his knowledge of government’s inner workings will be useful as lawmakers ponder reforms to the pension system. “I’m familiar with the organizations on Beacon Hill and the variety of different roles,” he said. “I think that experience will come in helpful as issues come up over the next few years. Pension reform is going to be a big issue, and having some experience with the state-level operations is going to be a benefit to the retirement board.”

Maylor praised Kostro’s experience working in multiple levels of government. His two biggest tasks ahead, Maylor said, will be establishing structure that was glaringly absent under the previous leadership and rebuilding relationships with the towns and units whose tax dollars fund the system.

“There aren’t enough policies to make this system operate effectively,” Maylor said. “I think that’s a significant first step for Chuck. He has to implement policies and procedures that will make sure, regardless of who sits in the seat a decade from now, that the system will operate effectively,”

The Essex Retirement System consists of former county employees, 19 towns and 20 assorted districts, including School (non-teachers), Veterans’ and Housing Authorities. There are 4,380 employees and 1,587 retirees who hold membership in the Essex System.