Mansfield town manager reflects before move to West Hartford

The Mansfield Town Council met for its bimonthly meeting in Town Hall on Wednesday evening. Items on the agenda included a presentation from the last green valley and a discussion about land use. Additionally Town Manager Matt Hart announced his retirement from the council come July 1. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Mansfield’s current town manager, Matthew Hart, has been hired as West Hartford’s next town manager.

Hart said he will begin in West Hartford on July 31. West Hartford’s town council officially appointed Hart at their April 17 meeting.

“I’m very excited. I really appreciate the council’s support and the confidence they’re placing in me,” Hart said.

Hart publicly announced the job offer at Mansfield Town Council’s April 12 meeting. At said meeting, mayor Paul Shapiro expressed his gratitude for Hart’s 10 years as town manager and 17 years total at work in Mansfield.

“I know I’m going to miss you, and also besides our professional relationship, I’ve discovered you actually have a fantastic sense of humor, which you spend a lot of time hiding from the general public,” Shapiro said.

Hart said that he views his future position as a “very significant professional growth opportunity.”

“In this line of work, we look to West Hartford as a model when approaching various things,” Hart said. “I’m looking forward to managing more people in a more suburban environment.”

Hart said that West Hartford offers good schools for his children and a closer commute for his wife.

Once he begins as West Hartford’s town manager, Hart said that he will address that town’s budget in light of the state of Connecticut facing significant budget deficits. He will also ponder its proposal to purchase the site of the University of Connecticut’s West Hartford campus from the university.

“West Hartford had expressed an interest in purchasing that property from the university, but they’re looking at the best way to handle that situation, whether or not it still makes sense for the town to purchase it or if there are other options available,” Hart said.

Hart said that he will focus on fostering a relationship with West Hartford town staff, business leaders and public education leaders.

Hart stated that he also hopes to consider the Metropolitan District (MDC), which concerns regionalism and service sharing with water resources in the greater Hartford area.

Hart said he was appointed Mansfield town manager in October 2006 after he applied for and earned the position when his predecessor retired. He began as assistant to the town manager in January 2000.

Hart said that factors such as dedicated town staff and highly involved residents drew him to the town manager position in Mansfield.

“I was very attracted to Mansfield, having worked here six, six-and-a-half years by then. Just a great community, being home to UConn, very good staff, residents who are really engaged and feel strongly about the town and the school district. And we had a number of exciting projects underway, like Storrs Center,” Hart said.

Hart said that the first thing which he is most proud to have accomplished as Mansfield town manager is the creation of a leadership team.

“Over the past ten years I’ve had an opportunity to build a very strong team and attract great candidates from other communities in Connecticut, as well as elsewhere across the country,” Hart said.

Hart noted the actions taken to ensure the town’s financial success, such as the building of reserves and the implementation of a pay-as-you-go plan for the town’s CIP (Capital Improvement Program).

“I’m very proud of the fact that despite the Great Recession, we’ve really improved the town’s financial position,” Hart said. “We use the CIP to purchase capital items like equipment, building repairs, etc. So, we will purchase a piece of fire apparatus, for example, that may cost $600, $700,000. We will set aside money for a period of years until we can purchase that item in cash instead of having to issue debt for it. And that saves the community money in the long run.”

Hart said that he is also proud of tax increases remaining relatively moderate, the success of Storrs Center and improvements made to the town’s infrastructure, like sanitary sewer and roads. He additionally highlighted the town’s relationship with UConn.

“I’ve got a good working relationship with the president’s office, folks in public safety and student affairs, folks in the facilities and engineering and architectural groups. And that’s just very important because we’re very proud to be home to UConn’s main campus,” Hart said.

Hart stated that issues surrounding off-campus housing will remain under consideration.

“UConn’s leadership takes it seriously,” Hart said. “I also want to credit the student body, because I think folks in student government and some of the leaders in the Greek community are trying to address the issue, too.”

Hart said that one project he would have liked to have seen completed is the construction of an independent/assisted living community.

Before Hart transitions to West Hartford, he said that he aims to assist Mansfield with its budget amidst the state of Connecticut facing significant budget deficits. He will also help town council find his successor and tie up loose ends with assorted projects, such as the Four Corners sanitary sewer project.

“I’d also like to get our environmental impact evaluation approved by the state,” Hart said.

Hart said that he is grateful for his experiences while at work in Mansfield.

“Mansfield is a wonderful community,” Hart said. “I want to thank the town for the opportunities it’s afforded me over the years. It’s been a great home for my family over 17 years.”


Alexandra Retter is staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.retter@uconn.edu.