SHIRLEY — After the departure of former Town Administrator Patrice Garvin in January, an undisclosed dust up with her temporary replacement, Travis Miller last month left the corner office empty again.
Now, a new Interim Town Administrator, Rocco Longo, has taken on the job.
Unlike the previous selection process, most of which was conducted in public, this one was quick and quiet. Rather than dip back into an existing pool of applicants to fill the temporary vacancy or post a new ad and conduct more interviews, the selectmen made their recent move behind closed doors.
Emerging from their latest executive session Monday night, the selectmen launched the public meeting with aplomb. No mention of Miller or the drama that might have played out upstairs during previous closed-door sessions. Nor did they get into the back story that led to hiring Longo, who took his seat at the table without fanfare.
“He received his new contract tonight,” Chairman Enrico Cappucci said.
Picking up where previous administrators had left off, Longo delivered his report and weighed in on matters under discussion when the board asked for his input. In other words, business as usual.
Sketching his first day on the job, Longo, a recently retired municipal manager with many years of experience, said he’d met with several town officials and department heads so far and had reached out to the town’s independent outside auditor, Dick Hingston, as well as the town accountant and others.
“I look forward to working with them,” he said. “It was a very productive day.”
A busy one, too, apparently. His first contact list also included Finance Committee Chairman Bryan Sawyer and Town Clerk Bill Oelfke, Longo said. Going forward, the budget and the Annual Town Meeting Warrant are top priorities, he said, plus unfinished business relating to “solar arrays” that involves talking to Lancaster’s town manager, who was hired as a consultant some time ago to broker an energy aggregation deal on behalf of the town of Shirley.
Asked after the meeting to shed light on the current transition and the upset that preceded it, Chairman Enrico Cappucci briefly explained Longo’s unheralded arrival.
“I asked him,” he said.
Formerly the administrator in Marshfied, Longo retired after a career that spanned more than 40 years and included stints as chairman of the Massachusetts Municipal Association and as a member of the state insurance board, Cappucci said.
Drawing on professional and personal ties dating back to his own long tenure as Duxbury’s police chief, Cappucci reached out to his old friend and former colleague to “help me out” he said.
Cappucci said the selectmen’s office was in disarray when he persuaded Longo to forgo retirement for awhile and step in, with several items on the former interim administrator’s to do list left undone or incomplete. Asked if matters with Miller had been resolved, he said not quite, but soon. In the meantime, he tapped a seasoned veteran he could count on to to take over temporarily while the Town Administrator search continues, a process the board has previously said could last for several months.
Earlier this year the selectmen hired a professional recruiter to conduct the search, assisted by a hand-picked, board-appointed volunteer Search Committee whose members include the town moderator, police chief, fire chief, the Ayer Shirley Regional School District superintendent and others.