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SHIRLEY — With Town Administrator Patrice Garvin’s resignation in hand — her departure date is Jan. 10, 2018 — and the Selectmen’s administrative assistant, Nate Boudreau, having signaled his intent to leave even sooner, it’s crunch time for the town’s top board, which is faced with peopling the corner office until those positions are filled.

Monday night, the selectmen plotted out the course they would follow, deciding to seat a handpicked search team, hire a professional recruiter and fill the positions temporarily while the search goes on.

With several applications in hand for the interim Town Administrator position, the board agreed that a part-time “floater” who works in the Town Offices now and has experience working for town boards can fill in for the administrative assistant and keep the office on track, for now.

When talk turned to the search committee’s makeup, Selectmen Chairman Holly Haase at first suggested a volunteer-centric search process featuring “community outreach” and an open, town-wide call for committee members.

However, given the specific qualifications the task calls for, she ultimately sided with fellow board members Debra Flagg and Enrico Cappusci, who favored a more professional approach..

“This new search is very important to the recovery of the town,” Flagg said, citing “so much negative… by a number of people.” But now, with “obstacles” that caused those prickly, politically-charged issues gone, it’s time to move forward, with the selectmen on point.

“This is a big deal,” she said. Restaffing the corner office “starts a new chapter,” she said. “We are the authors of this book.”

Garvin predicted smoother sailing with a professional recruiter at the helm, A key piece is for the board to craft its “vision” for a re-framed administrative structure and the firm can help with that, she said. “It’s part of an in-depth process…it’s what these companies do,” she said. This way, she added, the search process will be non-political and the board can stay out of it.

Garvin agreed to round up recruiting firms — Cappucci said he favors two recommended by town counsel, while Haase said she’d prefer three choices — for the board to interview at its January meeting.

Meantime, the selectmen can mull their options for a subcommittee tasked with helping them consider town administrator candidates the recruiter brings in. Finalists will be interviewed in public.

Moderator Karen Luddington has already agreed to serve on the committee, Cappucci said. For the rest, each selectmen will choose two people to ask, mining various town departments and boards such as the Finance Committee, public safety departments, the Ayer Shirley Regional School District and others.

In other business, the selectmen set the date for the 2018 Annual Town Meeting: May 14.