SHIRLEY — Karen Shree Barrett is one of two candidates running for Selectmen in the May 7 town election.
She co-owns, with her husband, The Phoenix Club, which is a local restaurant. She formerly was the town accountant.
Although her recent Town Hall tenure was brief, Barrett also worked for the town several years ago.
She left for a job in Acton, where she was assistant finance director for 10 years. She later became comptroller in Natick, then finance director in Tewksbury. But her roots were in Shirley. She’d moved away, but has since resettled here and is glad to be back, she said.
Asked what motivated her run for selectman, Barrett said it was working at town hall. “I didn’t like what I saw … something was systemically wrong,’ she said.
“Four town administrators in six months,” for example.
Citing a government in flux, structural shakeups, turnover and staff shortages, Barrett decided to quit and gave 30 days notice, per her contract, she said. But when she came to work the next morning, a “welcoming committee,” including town officials and police, surprised her. “They were waiting to walk me out,” she says. But they worked things out instead and she stayed on awhile longer.
Upsets continued. One administrator left after a month, leaving work unfinished.
As selectmen launched a search for a permanent replacement, an interim administrator stepped in. “Rocco Longo was great,” Barrett said of the retired town manager tapped for the temporary job, noting Longo’s work with the finance team on last year’s budget.
When Town Administrator Mike McGovern took over, Barrett heard he had someone else lined up for her job and he soon confirmed it. “He let me know … he wanted me to go,” she said. She resigned.
Barrett’s recent resume includes a course in local government at Suffolk Law School via the Mass. Municipal Association, specifically for town managers. “I passed with flying colors,” she said.
Shirley is her home and she loves living here, Barrett said, summing up reasons she moved back, why she bought the business and why she’s running for office. It’s a caring and close-knit community of “awesome people,” she said and based on her own experience, an ideal place to raise a family.
Things she’d like to see improved on her watch, if elected, include fixing town roads and sidewalks, “doing something” about the aging building that houses the Lura A. White Elementary School and creating a sports venue for young people, “to keep them busy,” she said.