SHIRLEY -- Selectmen on Monday night appointed Brandon Kelly, a former staff engineer for the city of Lowell, as DPW director, fulfilling their long-held goal to shore up and professionally head the Highway Department, which now has four full-timers on the road and an opening for a part-time laborer.

The DPW lacked a professional director for several years.

That leadership gap widened significantly after the long-time foreman left last year, prompting the board to reach out to MassDevelopment. As a result, Devens' DPW Director David Blazon temporarily stepped in to take the helm part time, assisting Shirley's small road crew over the winter.

Selectmen subsequently promoted a new foreman from the ranks but continued to push for a full-time, professional director.

Plowing was not the only issue the board sought to address. Allocating highway funds, prioritizing projects and planning are also part of the job description, as well as managing personnel.

And engineering expertise was a must.

For example, after heavy rain recently, water runoff, apparently attributed to grading issues on the town's main drag, caused flooding at nearby businesses, including the Phoenix Bar and Grill, owner Karen Barrett said. It also hit the hardware store next door and others, she said.

A well-engineered road plan might have prevented the incident, which points up the need for a DPW director with engineering experience as well as management skills, Selectman Enrico Cappucci said.


He said Kelly would work with Barrett and the other business owners to avert future troubles.

Town Meeting supported the board's bid and agreed to fund the full-time DPW director's position.

Blazon served on the three-person search committee that was seated to interview candidates, along with Town Administrator Mike McGovern and a citizen member, Barbara Yocum.

They recommended Kelly, who holds a bachelor's degree in industrial management from UMass, Lowell, which McGovern said has a hefty engineering component.

Kelly was a staff engineer at Lowell's wastewater treatment facility for four years, from 2006-2010 and previously worked as a system administrator at the plant.

From 2011 to 2014, he was general foreman for Lowell's Street Department, overseeing the departmental budget and 20-plus employees. He also briefly worked as grounds superintendent for UMass, Lowell and most recently was the director of property management for a high-end real estate developer.

Highlighting Kelly's experience and educational qualifications for the new position, with hands-on as well as administrative duties, McGovern also pointed out the sturdy list of licenses and certifications on his resume, including a Class-A commercial driver's license, FEMA certification and several others.

Kelly started the job Tuesday.