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HARVARD — New town administrator Timothy Bragan is “hardworking,” “personable” and “good with numbers,” according to co-worker Valeska Ross.

Since he started on Jan. 8, she said, “He’s put in long hours and gotten up to speed on a number of topics and issues facing Harvard.”

Among those is the budget, which has a projected shortfall of at least $788,000 for fiscal year 2008.

Bragan, 45, said he’s no a miracle worker, but that he was aware of the circumstance coming in and promised to put in his best effort in helping the selectmen and town meet that challenge.

“One of the things that interested me most is that Harvard is in the financial condition it’s in,” he said. “One thing people won’t say about me is that I don’t do my homework.”

A key selling point for Bragan when interviewing for the position is his background in sound financial management. In his previous 12 years in Sterling — many of them as town manager — the town had only one override, which was for trash removal. Otherwise, he said it never had less than $200,000 in free cash when all was said and done.

Bragan said his contribution to that streak was tried-and-true business management practices such as efficient evaluations and making conservative revenue/ expenditure projections.

Ironically, Bragan said he initially was lukewarm toward the finance courses he took as a business minor at University of Massachusetts Lowell, but now they’re vital to modern municipal management.

It was a different story with political science, said Bragan, which he majored in.

Growing up in Lowell and attending the public schools, Bragan said he always wanted to be involved with public policy. He’s worked on numerous local, gubernatorial and presidential campaigns since he graduated high school in 1979.

It wasn’t until 1986, when Bragan was the mayor’s assistant in Lowell, that his chosen role appeared on the horizon.

He initially was leaning toward seeking elected office in some capacity, but said two cases showed him the difference an effective administrator can make. One involved a group of tenants who needed a housing proposal to avoid becoming homeless. Another involved installing a crosswalk and traffic light near a school.

Though neither was easy, Bragan said he found putting the pieces together to make a difference for others very fulfilling.

“That’s when I realized going into the administrative portion instead of the elected side was the thing for me,” he said.

After two years in Lowell, Bragan left to pursue a master’s degree in public administration from Suffolk University, which he earned in 1992. From there, he became the executive secretary in Townsend from 1993 to 1995 before moving to Sterling.

Outside work, Bragan is single with a daughter from a previous marriage. Though there’s a miniature golf club on his desk, Bragan said his primary hobbies are amateur photography and ornithology.

Overall, Bragan described himself as a hardworking, approachable manager with an open-door policy.

“I’ve been told I’m quite firm, but when everything is done, I’ve also been told I’m quite fair,” he said.

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