Updated 4:04 p.m. with new lead, comments from Mayor Harry Rilling and Board of Education Chairman Mike Lyons; COO candidate information added at 4:33 p.m.
NORWALK, Conn. – Tom Hamilton, currently Norwalk’s finance director, has been selected for the position of Chief Financial Officer for Norwalk Public Schools, the first step in a longer-range plan to combine the city and Board of Education financial management under one department.
The BOE will vote on Hamilton’s proposed appointment at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 1. He would fill the position vacated by Rich Rudl, who accepted a similar position with the Weston Board of Education that began in July.
Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski and Mayor Harry Rilling were involved in what Rilling said Friday was “an initial conversation about two weeks ago. We discussed the possibility of eventually combining fiscal operations of the city and B.O.E. Mr. Hamilton moving upstairs gives him the opportunity to learn the finance director operations of a school system which is a necessary first step if we were to combine and realize the financial and operational efficiencies combining functions would provide.”
“We have no bench and needed a top-flight person,” Lyons said via Friday email. “The city has a bench (Bob Barron and others), and Hamilton is still de facto helping the city (since we’re 60 percent of the city budget).”
Rilling agreed, revealing the plan for the future, both long-term and immediate.
“I am appointing our budget director, Bob Barron, as the interim finance director,” Rilling said. “I have total confidence in Bob’s ability, having worked with him for the past year and 10 months as mayor and before that as police chief. The transition will be seamless. Bob was the finance director in West Haven before taking his position here in Norwalk. His education and experience are quite impressive. I will be discussing my future plans with my Business Advisory Council, among others.”
Rilling praised Hamilton’s work in leading the city’s financial department and pointed out the city is not really losing him.
“Tom has been an extremely effective finance director and has served the city well. He has decided to accept the position with the BoE, which does pay him more. He remains in our building and available.”
In 2014, according to city figures, Rudl earned $154,561, about $7,100 more than Hamilton.
According to the BoE announcement that appeared online Friday:
“Tom Hamilton’s pending appointment with Norwalk Public Schools recognizes the critical role our school system plays in the overall well-being of our City,” said Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling. “Since his return to Norwalk in 2003, Hamilton has guided the city through the 2008 financial crisis, helped to maintain our top bond rating, and managed the implementation of three citywide property revaluations, among other achievements. And while this new role would give Tom the opportunity to take his career in a new direction, it also keeps his expertise right where we want it, here in Norwalk.”
As the city’s chief financial officer, Hamilton is currently responsible for managing all financial operations, including accounting, financial reporting, payroll, treasury/cash management, budget preparation and execution, internal audit, risk management, purchasing and central services. Before taking on his current role, he served as director of administration for the city of Stamford for seven years. Prior to that, he was director of finance for the city of West Haven. He served Norwalk as director of management and budget from 1986 to 1992.
“I’m very pleased to advance the recommendation of Tom Hamilton for the role of Chief Financial Officer at Norwalk Public Schools,” said BoE Mike Lyons. “Hamilton’s appointment will enable us to balance the city’s needs with those of our students and schools, and will assist the Board of Education in continuing our commitment to delivering appropriate yet responsible budget proposals. His deep experience with Norwalk’s budgeting process makes him an excellent choice for this position.”
“With Hamilton’s knowledge of city operations, his appointment would also enable closer cooperation in the future between the city and the school system, with the potential for identifying cost savings and efficiencies not currently realized,” Lyons added.
Pending approval of Hamilton’s appointment, Bob Barron, director of management and budgets, would be appointed Acting Finance Director for the City of Norwalk, according to Rilling. “Bob’s experience in the city’s finance department will ensure a seamless transition as Tom takes on his new responsibilities.”
Additional details on the transition, including a start date for Hamilton’s new role with the Norwalk Public Schools, will be finalized after the Board of Education meeting on Sept. 1.
Permanent COO candidate on the agenda, too
Lyons said the BoE also has a choice for chief operating officer who will be on the Sept. 1 agenda. Frank Costanzo is principal of Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School in New Haven.
“He’s a great choice, really impressed all of us at the interview (myself, Mike Barbis, Artie Kassimis, Shirley Mosby and Migdalia Rivas).”
Lyons offered a link to Costanzo’s LinkedIn page. “Note the graduation rates for African-American children at his inner-city New Haven school, among other accomplishments,” Lyons said.
Costanzo’s resume on Linkedin touts masters degrees from Brown and Harvard and says he is a doctoral candidate at Columbia.
“We are rapidly building a top-flight central office team,” he said. “I told Dr. Adamowski when he got here that his top priority had to be filling those positions; he’s doing so.”