East Hampton’s new town manager, Michael Maniscalco, wasn’t necessarily looking for a new job.
As the Executive Director of the Lincoln and Logan County Economic Development Partnership in Illinois, a position he had held since August 2011, Maniscalco was responsible for program development and implementation, business development, managing staff, fundraising and more.
In his 10 months, there were successes. Maniscalco helped prevent the Logan Correctional Center from closing, saving 357 jobs. He also helped create an economic development master plan for the county and recently helped implement electric aggregation, a process that allows communities in the county to collectively bid for lower electric rates.
“We basically put the county on the map with the bids that we got,” he said, adding residents will save about $200 a year, or countywide, about $2.3 million a year.
With accomplishments such as these, Maniscalco was quickly making a name for himself. And it was a job he liked.
“The job I’m in now, I really enjoy it. It’s a good job,” Maniscalco admitted saying during the interview process.
So why move? Well, as Maniscalco theorized, most people with degrees in public administration aspire to a city manager-type position. Maniscalco did, which might explain why he would keep tabs on openings on the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) web site.
So, when an opening in his home state showed up, he applied.
According to Maniscalco, the interview process couldn’t have gone much better.
“Looking back at it, it was great,” he said about the unanimous decision to offer him the position. “I kind of hit it off with each of the council members individually.”
During the hiring process Maniscalco had a chance to ask questions as well. One question that was important to him was to ask the council members “Why in the world are they doing this?”
"This" being serving on a town council.
“People don’t tend to realize the amount of work that goes into an elected position like that,” Maniscalco said. “The difficult decisions that city councils have to make.”
From the important decisions any council has to make to the time commitment involved and the many complaints to them and about them in between, fun and glamour probably don’t top the list of factors in one’s decision to run, but the answers Manscalco got were more than a little encouraging to him.
“The reason that they’re there is because they all care about East Hampton … and that’s like half the battle,” he said. “At the end of the day, as long as they all care about it and they all have the same goal, which is to do the best thing for East Hampton, we’re almost there.”
Maniscalco was raised in Trumbull and graduated from Trumbull High School a half-year early. After saving some money, he hit the road, traveling around the country.
“I was really interested in getting out in the world and kind of learning more about who I was and what there was to do out there,” he said. “I was able to get in the car and drive all over the country. I blew $10,000 in like four months.”
All good things must come to and end, however, and Maniscalco returned home where he was faced with the decision of what his next move would be.
College was it, and with American Indian Studies something that had always interested him, he went to one of the few universities that offered it, the University of South Dakota.
“At the time I was very interested in American Indians, American Indian History and that sort of stuff,” he said. “I really did pretty good in college and went right through to my masters degree.”
After double majoring in history and American Indian Studies, Maniscalco continued on to get that masters in public administration in 2008.
From there, he headed to Illinois, where he worked as the National Leadership Grant Project Coordinator for the Illinois State Museum Society and then later for the Autism Program of Illinois as the program manager.
In that role, Maniscalco managed a $4 million budget and gained experience in writing grants.
Now, at 30, he will be East Hampton’s next town manager.
“Well, there were some people that said I was kind of young to be the executive director of the Logan County Economic Development partnership,” Maniscalco said. “I really don’t think age has any factor in it, I really don’t. People who do have a problem with that, I’d say ‘Sit back and give me a chance.’”
Which is kind of what Maniscalco intends to do with the town once he starts on July 9. Sit back and give it a chance. Don’t expect him to come in with a list of ideas he’s looking to implement right off the bat.
“My view of the first few months is more about fact finding,” he said. “Of course I’ve read the news and know about some of the things going on, but at the end of the day it’s not my job to form opinions, it’s my job to make the city run. Of course we’re going to have changes that go on, but they’re not going to happen right away. They’re going to happen down the road. When we do make those changes, we’re going to make them smart. I want to make them one time, not 10 times. We’re going to sit down, watch the way things work, see how things happen, do a lot of looking and exploring and figuring out how things are happening and find where things need to be tweaked a little bit. That’s really the plan, to kind of sit back and let’s see how things go and then let’s figure out how we can work on making it even better.”
First things first, however. Maniscalco and his wife Sabohat have a lot on their plate these days as they prepare to move and make East Hampton their new home. His last day in his current job is June 30.
“We didn’t see anything perfect yet,” Maniscalco said about the search for a house, “but there are some possibilities we’re thinking about and we kind of want to see what else comes on the market over the next few weeks.”
Until then, they have the good fortune of having family in the state, an important factor in their decision to pursue the town manager position. The Maniscalco’s will be staying in Fairfield at his grandmother’s temporarily until they “find something that works 100 percent for us.”
What will work will require at least a third bedroom. The Maniscalco’s are expecting their first child in October. A girl.
“We are under the gun with the baby due in October, so we’re trying to move as quickly as we can,” Maniscalco said.