SHIRLEY — Rocco Longo, a well-known municipal manager who worked in Billerica and later Shirley, died Sunday after a brief illness.
At the time of his death, Longo was serving as interim town administrator in East Bridgewater. Appointed in April, he was set to continue through October.
He held the same position in Shirley during a period of municipal uncertainty last year.
Longo, who lived in Duxbury, accepted the assignment here in early 2018, after the previous administrator left. He was tapped for the job by then Board of Selectmen Chairman Enrico Cappucci, who was police chief in Duxbury for over 20 years and worked with Longo when he was the town manager there. Previously, Longo was town administrator in the neighboring town of Marshfield.
Recalling him as a non-nonsense, all-business administrator, Cappucci reached out to his old friend to help the town get through a rough patch.
The town administrator’s position had been vacated in January, 2018. An interim administrator hired in February left a few weeks later. With a new board seated after a recall election, budget matters pending and confusion among the staff, which in addition to dealing with administrative turnover, had seen substantial outflow in recent months, Cappucci asked Longo to take the reins while a search was conducted for a new, permanent town administrator.
Longo obliged. It was a role he was supremely suited for.
Reflecting on his relatively short but remarkable tenure when Longo left last year, Selectman Debra Flagg said: “We were really lucky to have him after all the turmoil.” Working with him was a pleasure, she said at the time, calling him a “diffuser” when trouble came up.
As a veteran teacher, Flagg acknowledged she had no experience in town government and appreciated Longo’s “calming influence,” she said. “Right or wrong, he makes you feel good about yourself.”
According to an online obituary, East Bridgewater Selectman Carole Julius called Longo “…calm and very wise,” noting that he worked with the Finance Committee to finish the town budget.
He did the same in Shirley.
Selectman Bryan Sawyer, elected in May, 2018, chaired the Finance Committee when Longo came on board and helped build the 2019 budget in time for for Annual Town Meeting. “He came during our key budget season,” Sawyer said. “It was critical.”
In May, 2018, Longo received the Joseph Moakley Public Service Award from Bridgewater State University, his alma mater, at an event hosted by the Master of Public Administration Program, a division of the university’s Political Science Department.
Longo was town manager in Billerica for three years before he resigned in 2008 to accept the Marshfield position.
Longo’s retirement as Marshfield’s town manager capped a career in municipal government that spanned four decades. But he never stopped working. Besides a series of interim positions in his field, he was an instructor in a local government leadership and management certification program at Suffolk University, under the banner of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
Program founder Bernie Lynch, the former Chelmsford town manager and Lowell city manager, remembered Longo as “everyone’s friend,” adding “you don’t see that quite as much as we’d like.”
Announcing his passing at the Shirley Selectmen’s meeting Monday night, Flagg credited Longo as “one of those who turned this place around,” noting the knowledge and experience he brought to the job. “He was a great guy,” she said.
Rocco Longo was 67 years old.