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GROTON — Long-time town employee Michelle Collette will retire early next year.

The news came from Town Manager Mark Haddad at Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting after noting that Collette had worked for the town in different capacities, most lately as town planner, for the past 33 years.

“I’m extremely sad that Michelle decided to retire,” said Haddad. “To replace her is going to be very difficult.”

Collette worked for years in the town’s land-use office as the Planning Board’s administrator before taking on the title of town planner. Due to her many years of experience, she was well versed not only in town history, but the workings of its municipal government.

As a result, it would be “virtually impossible” to find a perfect replacement for Collette, said Haddad.

Haddad plans to meet with members of the land-use staff to gather input on what to look out for in a new hire.

After that, Haddad will meet with the Planning Board to settle on language to be used in advertising for the town planner position.

A search committee will be formed to review applications and narrow the field of finalists who will be interviewed by selectmen.

Haddad said his intention for the search process is that it be a “very collaborative” process.

“There is no replacement for Michelle,” agreed Selectman Anna Eliot, describing Collette’s success as being due to an “aura of professionalism, kindness and fairness” she demonstrated on the job every day.

Collette, added Selectman Stuart Schulman, is “the prototype of the nearly perfect town employee.”

Collette plans to retire in February.