Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker is resigning to take a new job in Wilton. He will become Wilton’s first town administrator. Knickerbocker will leave his current job on September 7th. He held the elected position for 13 years.
Selectman Rich Straiton will step up to lead the town. The vacancy in the First Selectman's Office will require a special election in the near future, as well as an appointment by the Board of Selectmen to fill the third seat. The special election will most likely be held in early 2023.
Knickerbocker says he's been contemplating making a career change at the end of his current term, wanting to continue in the field of public service, but in a more secure position. He says since the pandemic has eased, he's gone back to graduate school and earned a master’s degree in public administration.
Wilton First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice says there's increasing resident demand for a “24/7 local government” and described the role as that of Chief Operating Officer. The town administrator will assist the first select person and act as a conduit between that office and residents.
The Wilton Board of Selectmen approved a motion from Vanderslice to lower her salary by $20,000 as some of her duties will be passed off to the Town Administrator. There's up to $200,000 budgeted for the new position, though a contract has not yet been signed.
Some of the things Knickerbocker says he's most proud of include the ongoing accelerated road reconstruction program, making Bethel one of the first towns in the state to construct a municipal solar farm to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the town’s energy expenses, constructing a new police station and full renovation of two elementary schools, completion of the stalled library expansion, fully revamping the town’s finances and achieving the highest possible bond rating and adopting financial policies that will protect taxpayers from sudden spikes in tax rates in the future. But he says the most significant was transforming the Bethel public water system from being on the verge of failure and making it into one of the best public water systems in the state.
Knickerbocker served on the Western Connecticut Council of Governments’ Executive Committee with Vanderslice and has held leadership positions with the Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Material Management, Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority, Connecticut Council of Small Towns and Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency.