By Robert Mills
CHELMSFORD -- Two years after former Executive Director John Barranco was fired for allegedly misusing funds, the Merrimack Education Center has hired a new leader away from Harvard University.
David Hastings, of Andover, has worked as a management consultant specializing in the nonprofit and higher-education sectors since 1980. He will leave a position as director of administration for the Harvard School of Public Health's Department of Genetic and Complex Diseases.
Hastings takes over for interim Executive Director Anthony Walker, who took the helm after Barranco was accused of misusing millions in taxpayer funds while leading MEC and the Merrimack Special Education Collaborative.
The MEC board of directors fired Barranco in September 2012.
Hastings acknowledged MEC's troubled past, but said he is truly excited to work for an organization with longtime, dedicated employees.
"They've been through difficult times, but the reason I'm attracted to this and the reason I left Harvard is so I can return to the Merrimack Valley, where I started my career, to work with local people and meet local challenges, especially for special-needs children, the people who educate them and the parents who raise them," Hastings said.
The nonprofit center provides schools, towns, and other nonprofit organizations with special education, transportation, professional development and technology programs.
Hastings previously worked at the Museum of Science in Boston, the Massachusetts Hospital Association, the Massachusetts 9-11 Fund, and Tufts University.
Though MEC and MSEC had close ties under Barranco, the two organizations have now parted ways in almost all regards. The only remaining tie is that MSEC still leases some office space from MEC, though those leases are scheduled to expire next year.
Gary Garmon, chairman of MEC's board of directors, said Hastings was chosen from among 35 candidates located by an executive search firm.
"David's varied and extensive experience in numerous organizations in the nonprofit sector is an excellent match for MEC," Garmon said.
"We look forward to sharing his many talents with both the board and the staff."
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