Lowell Sun (Massachusetts)
BYLINE: By Joyce Tsai, email@example.com
WILMINGTON — The town is one step closer to cementing what appears to be an inevitability: Assistant Town Manager Jeffrey Hull will become town manager, after Michael Caira’s retirement at the end of September.
The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved, 4-0, Hull’s appointment to the position, during its meeting Tuesday night. The town will go through a negotiation process to hammer out a new three-year contract with Hull that would nail down the terms and salary of his position from October to Oct. 1, 2015. Selectman Louis Cimaglia abstained because he’s a town employee, the veterans’ agent.
Hull’s experience working for the past 25 years as assistant town manager and working side by side with Caira through the years made him the logical choice and uniquely qualified, selectmen said.
“I made the motion and I stated at the meeting that I believe in promoting from within,” said Selectman Michael McCoy. “I don’t think we need to spend $30,000 for the nationwide search, knowing the best person is our assistant town manager.”
Selectmen Chairman Michael Newhouse said that he expected the board to enter into contract negotiations “right away.” He also suspected the town might be able to wrap up contract negotiations, which will be done in executive sessions, in June. A final vote on the contract would be taken in open session. The board also doesn’t plan to appoint a working group or subcommittee for the task, he said.
“Jeff is a known quantity to us and we’re a known quantity to him,” Newhouse said. “There shouldn’t be any wrangling over complicated compensation packages.”
Hull’s current salary is $102,000. Caira’s current salary is $140,000, which is what many other town managers make in the area, Newhouse said.
“I think we are going to meet somewhere in the middle,” he said.
Before the vote, Hull fielded numerous questions in a 45-minute informal interview about his qualifications and vision for the job. They included when he plans to retire and who he would consider selecting to fill his shoes as second-in-command.
Hull, a resident of Billerica and a graduate of Bryant University in Rhode Island with a bachelor’s degree in science in business administration, said that he has a fairly young family and has no plans to retire in the coming years.
Hull has proven his long-term commitment to the town by not opting to pursue opportunities in other local towns, when it’s clear such chances in the past 25 years have come up, said Selectman Mike Champoux.
Hull also said for the assistant town manager job, he would look for someone with a strong human-resources background, and someone who could step up and handle a lot of the insurance issues and the personnel aspects of the town-manager role, Champoux said. Hull also indicated he would consider hiring from within and had a few candidates in mind, though didn’t wish yet to go into specifics.
Selectman Judith O’Connell also queried Hull on where he would look to improve on the current management of the town. Hull answered that he would consider whether it was necessary and cost-effective to recycle police vehicles into service into other departments, as the town’s current practice. He also is looking at increasing communications from the town manager’s office to residents.
Champoux also asked Hull how he planned to be a different voice from Caira. Hull said he would adhere to many of Caira’s conservative-budget philosophies, keeping the town’s fiscal position consistent, but still have his own management style.
“He’s a soft-spoken individual,” Champoux said of Hull. “But like Teddy Roosevelt, I think he’ll ‘Walk softly and carry a big stick.’ ”
Hull told The Sun that he was gratified to be chosen to step into Caira’s shoes as Town Manager when he retires.
“There are only nine other individuals that have served in that role since the Town Manager Act was established in 1951,” Hull said. “I would be the tenth to serve. This is clearly an honor.”
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