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GROTON — After serving as Groton’s administrative officer for the past 15 years, Jean Kitchen confirmed this week that she is in contractual negotiations with the town of Southborough for a job as its town administrator.

“The selection process was a rigorous one,” said Kitchen, who became one of three finalists in the last phase of the process. “I first met with a search committee, and then I met with the department heads, and then with the Board of Selectmen.”

Kitchen’s application for a job with Southborough is not the first time she has sought a position outside Groton. Last year, she was among finalists in Tyngsboro’s search for a new town administrator. Although things did not work out with Tyngsboro, Kitchen said she has kept her eyes open for other opportunities.

“I really wasn’t actively looking,” said Kitchen of the Southborough opening. “This just happened to pop up.”

Should Kitchen and Southborough officials reach an agreement on a contract, Groton’s administrative officer could be out of Town Hall as early as the end of June.

“Southborough is a community with similar values as Groton,” said Kitchen of her reasons for seeking a position there. “Also, it gives me an opportunity for more professional growth.”

Although geographically smaller than Groton, Southborough has a slightly larger population with more developed public service departments.

“They have a little more commercial/industrial activity and a full-time Fire Department,” said Kitchen. “They also have the same kind of budget issues. Also, Southborough is like Groton in that it values open space and historical preservation.”

News of Kitchen’s impending exit was made public at the conclusion of a meeting of the Board of Selectmen held last Monday. At that time, selectmen expressed regret at losing the experienced Kitchen and launched immediately into preliminary discussions not only about forming a Search Committee to find her replacement, but also the possibility of upgrading the administrator’s position to that of a full-fledged town manager.

When asked about changing the position of administrative officer to town manager, Kitchen said she feels the time may be right to make such a move.

“I think it’s important that they look at it seriously because the issues are becoming more complicated and you need someone who has day-to-day oversight,” said Kitchen. “You need a town manager to totally implement the policy.”

But it is safe to say that whatever direction selectmen decide to take with the town’s top municipal officer, that person will have to deal with the same problems.

“Whoever takes over after me will have to look at the finances of the town and school and try to stay within the two and a half percent levy limit,” said Kitchen. “That’s going to be a challenge but luckily, they’ll have excellent department heads who will work with them.”

No matter the issue, whether it be the budget, departmental changes, or the impact of increasing development, the most important piece of advice Kitchen has for her successor is to always maintain a positive temperament.

“Groton is a great community and the people here will value your professionalism,” said Kitchen.

Kitchen however, will not leave Groton without some regret.

“I think what I liked best about working in Groton was the people,” said Kitchen, “all the people and the volunteers. They were a great group to work with and the Board of Selectmen has also been wonderful. All the boards have been excellent. All the different members have been very dedicated and very easy to work with.

“I’ve been here for 15 years so I know Groton better than the community I live in,” said Kitchen, a resident of Holden. “My only regret is that I didn’t move to Groton. It’s a wonderful community.”