If you haven’t heard yet – Blackstone recently hired Greg Balukonis as the acting Town Administrator for Blackstone. Former Town Administrator Dan Keyes resigned last year in a tumultuous period with complaints from members the Board of Selectmen and town employees. Posted on the Blackstone town website under the BOS minutes of the meeting is Greg Balukonis’ interview on December 14, we’ve shared the transcribed interview and video in this article.
When Greg Balukonis resigned in 2018 as Dudley’s Town Administrator, Dudley Chairman Steven P. Sullivan said “Greg has been everything we expected and more. He brought a level of professionalism; he brought expertise; he’s brought all his wisdom.” Mr. Balukonis said he gave more than six months notice to provide the board with ample time to find a successor and to assist with an orderly transition. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Blackstone had as much notice to get a new TA. However, notices about the role were sent out as soon as possible and interviews were conducted. Get to know the new Blackstone Acting Town Administrator Greg Balukonis from his interview below!
The Interview: Greg Balukonis
Mr. Balukonis interviewed via Zoom. He gave a summary of his background and experience: Mr. Balukonis graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and master’s degree from UMass. He has 36 years of experience working for towns and cities in MA, including town administrator in Dudley, MA where he is from. Mr. Balukonis retired in 2019.
Ms. Bulso, Question 1: What top three issues will you be facing as the new acting administrator? Do you recommend an HR representative in a town position?
Mr. Balukonis: 1) First priority is to work on budgetary issues in 2021 and then the 2022 budget; 2) Prepare for the spring meeting and warrants that need correcting; 3) and lastly, employee labor union issues regarding grievances, hiring decisions, and HR functions.
Yes, I recommend an HR representative in towns because it helps in hiring, especially in collective bargaining and labor negotiations and civil service positions, such as police and fire departments.
Ms. Bulso, Question 2: What will your first steps be in the position upon assuming responsibility?
Mr. Balukonis: Meet with everyone per department (face-to-face or Zoom). Find out what challenges need to be addressed.
Ms. Bulso, Question 3: What role have you played in the preparation of a budget?
Mr. Balukonis: I did it from start to finish; sat with finance, department heads, board of selectmen, reviewed and examined budgets and carried them through to the new fiscal year.
Mr. Kluchevitz, Question 1: What unique qualities do you bring to the town of Blackstone?
Mr. Balukonis: I’m good at problem solving and recognizing town risks. I can see the “big picture”. I identify trends in budgeting and finance. And Dudley is a similar community; schools, budget, lots of parallels.
Mr. Kulchevitz, Question 2: As the interim administrator of the town of Blackstone, what concerns do you have?
Mr. Balukonis: I’m familiar with the town’s financial comparisons and I have a few concerns. I’m more excited about joining the town.
Mr. Kluchevitz, Question 3: What do you know about the town of Blackstone and its finances?
Mr. Balukonis: I know that the town has an AA+ rating, I’m familiar with the EQV in the municipalities of Blackstone; the wealth of the homes; the challenges we face like any other town to meet budgets and encounter pressure from school boards.
Mr. Keefe, Question 1: How will you offer stability to the different departments?
Mr. Balukonis: Realizing the challenges of COVID-19 and working remotely; and cut backs. I’ll work with the board to identify issues and maintain consistencies. I’ll support the employees and help them realize team work – we’re in this together, it’ll get better.
Mr. Keefe, Question 2: In your position, how will you establish leadership and promote teamwork across the different departments?
Mr. Balukonis: Work collaboratively, work as a team. Solve problems firmly but being flexible at the same time. The employees’ opinions matter. I’m patient and always available.
Mr. Keefe, Question 3: Please give us an example as town manager one most difficult situation that you had to resolve.
Mr. Balukonis: A special permit was needed for a religious group who wanted to build a special cemetery in Dudley. It elicited intense community opposition. The town was accused of civil rights violations, concerns of religious bigotry and discrimination, and violating freedom of religion provisions. After one year, the zoning board granted the permit for the cemetery, but the group dropped its plans to build a cemetery in Dudley, and instead moved forward with plans elsewhere. Dudley was exonerated and charges dropped.
Ms. Greene, Question 1: How would you effectively coordinate and communicate with town offices?
Mr. Balukonis: Communication is most important. I prefer face-to-face meetings over Zoom. I accept opinions and will convey issues and results to department heads, the board, and the next administrator.
Ms. Greene, Question 2: Please describe your management style.
Mr. Balukonis: I’m a team player and builder. I work collaboratively and assess things and react in terms of importance. I believe in the free flow of information.
Ms. Green, Question 3: What, in general, do you know about the town of Blackstone:
Mr. Balukonis: That its similar to Dudley; we need to preserve revenues and capitalize on that. And I know the lay-of-the-land from hiking.
Mr. Dubois, Question 1: During an economic downslide and declining revenues, what would you do to maintain consistent levels of service?
Mr. Balukonis: Preserve core services; maintain good relations with essential government agencies that bring in revenues; examining potential for new revenues. Keep eye on revenue forecasts.
Mr. Dubois, Question 2: What would you do if an employee failed to do their job but wanted to maintain control at the same time?
Mr. Balukonis: I haven’t had major issues. If so, I’d have a conversation with the employee’s supervisor; lay out the issues and expectations. Set up a performance and corrective action plan.
Mr. Dubois, Question 3: If hired, you’ll be coming into budget season (January). Why do you think you’ll be successful, especially in managing five different contracts?
Mr. Balukonis: I’ve been doing budgets my entire career. In North Reading I had 11 contracts. The most important objective is communication. If you develop good relationships, you’ll have effective communications.
Interview notes submitted by Liz McGeough
Recorded Interview via Zoom
To get in touch with the new acting Town Administrator Greg Balukonis, call the Town Office at 508-883-1500 or fill up the form on the town website.