Brattleboro town manager abruptly resigns just 5 months into the job

Brattleboro Town Manager Octavian “Yoshi” Manale has abruptly resigned just five months into the job. Photo by Kevin O’Connor/VTDigger

BRATTLEBORO — Newly hired Town Manager Octavian “Yoshi” Manale, who sparked controversy by pushing local leaders to pull out of a contract with the municipality’s nearly 60-year EMS provider, abruptly submitted his resignation late Friday after serving just five months.

“In a small town like Brattleboro, I have quickly discovered that the prominence of this position creates drawbacks for me to fulfill the duties of the job most efficiently,” Manale wrote in a letter giving his two weeks’ notice. “I am not the right fit for this position.”

Manale has worked the past two decades in several New Jersey state and local government posts, most recently as deputy mayor and chief of staff for the City of Trenton.

“Until I took this position in Brattleboro, the smallest community I worked in was almost five times that of this town,” he said in his letter. “The larger populations afforded me anonymity that I did not appreciate until now.”

Brattleboro town government asked Town Meeting representatives earlier this year for money to retain its nearly 60-year EMS provider, the private nonprofit Rescue Inc.

But unbeknownst to residents, Manale reopened talks his predecessor had completed with Rescue so he could make several new demands, including that the EMS provider cover Brattleboro without the town having to pay its assessment, two people present for the discussion confirmed to VTDigger this week. 

Manale’s office went on to announce last month that the municipality would leave Rescue at the end of next month to pursue a plan to provide EMS care itself. The surprise last-minute pullout, which came with little notice or public debate, has spurred weeks of criticism at meetings and in the media, with outgoing Windham County state Sen. Jeanette White calling it “one of the worst decisions ever made.”

Manale’s letter didn’t mention any of that.

“I am leaving with a sad heart,” said the town manager, who will depart June 3. “After consulting with the Selectboard, I am sure that I have made the right decision to move on.”

The five-member board has appointed Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland to serve as interim municipal leader and is expected to conduct a search and fill the position in the coming months.

“I understand that Yoshi would prefer to return to work in larger municipalities,” Selectboard Chair Ian Goodnow said in a statement, “and we wish him the best with his future endeavors.”

Brattleboro remains slated to leave Rescue next month, as the Selectboard just approved a nearly $40,000 feasibility study of Manale’s proposal for the municipal fire department to take over local emergency medical services.

The research by the Wyoming-based consulting firm AP Triton is expected to address the accuracy of Manale’s estimate that Brattleboro could make upward of $700,000 annually by taking over EMS delivery and billing, a claim some experts have dismissed. The report will also examine whether the municipality should follow his recommendation to use refurbished rather than new ambulances.

Manale previously left his position as administrator in Bloomfield, New Jersey, in 2012, “apparently forced out of office by the township’s lawmakers,” according to a news report. He then moved on from his Trenton post without explanation last year, the local newspaper there noted in a story.

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