August 24, 2010

New Town Administrator: Almost a Done Deal

Union Leader Correspondent

It's official – depending on which side of the New Hampshire-Maine border you live on: Boothbay, Maine, town manager John Anderson will take over as Town Administrator as of October 25.

I promised my board long ago and far away that if I were planning to leave, I'd tell them as quickly as I could. I wanted to give them plenty of notice,” said Anderson yesterday.

John Anderson
News of his departure after 10 years at the helm was published last week in the Boothbay Register, which struck Derry Town Council members as slightly premature.

I just forwarded to the Council the employment agreement for Mr. Anderson, to get their OK. I'm not expecting any complications, but we are hesitant to make a formal announcement until we get a contract before the Council for a full vote, which will happen at our September 7 meeting,” said Council chair Brad Benson.

While the town Council is being cautiously optimistic, Anderson said he is ready to lead the charge and is committed to doing whatever it takes to help Derry reach the next level.

I told the Council that I don't need to leave Boothbay; I have an awful lot invested in this community. It's a great place. To want to leave, I also told the Council that they would have to convince me that the job in Derry is right for me – and they did that,” Anderson said.

He said after brushing up on Derry's past and present, and questioning several key managers and town officials, Anderson is excited about the progress he sees in the past year.

The town is poised to take off. It could be that with the right combination of leadership and the management team that's in place, Derry could fly. I realize it's a big town that wants to retain its small-town feel. It's a challenge and an opportunity, and I'm committed,” Anderson said.

He heard through the grapevine that his selection was unanimous, which helps him feel like he can hit the ground running.

That probably helped swing the balance for me – it certainly makes you feel welcome. My plan will be for the first 30 to 45 days to be on a listening tour, meeting with citizen groups and staff department heads, listening to find out where they want Derry to grow to moving forward,” Anderson said.

Anderson said he's a firm believer that a town manager should live in a community to truly understand it – he's actively looking for a home in Derry, and open to suggestions.

I'm committed to sticking around, and I think that's important to the Council members – even though I'm aware (Councilor) Kevin (Coyle) has purchased a new home in Londonderry, I told him that I'm looking for the same commitment from the Council. You can't sustain progress by having a revolving door. I got that loud and clear. And that's not me; I'm not one to jump from job to job,” Anderson said.

I understand plans change, but collectively if we can work together, I believe we can work through just about anything. I'm hoping Kevin will consider sticking around,” Anderson said.

Anderson, currently single, grew up in Pittsfield, Mass., and said he's old enough to have recently been contacted about attending his 30th high school reunion. “It's easier to put it that way than to have to say the number,” said Anderson, with a laugh.

Before being hired in Boothbay in 2000, he served as Council Administrator for the town of Barnstable, Mass., for six years. He also has the distinction of being the youngest elected representative of the Pittsfield, Mass., city council, where he served from 1988 to 1992.

He is a 1986 graduate of the University of Massachusetts/Amherst and has done some graduate level coursework there in Public Administration.

Although he made the leap from Massachusetts to Maine, he's no stranger to New Hampshire – as a child his family summered in New London, on Otter Pond at Georges Mills.

I have many great friends in New Hampshire, and my older sister still has a place in New London. I'm very excited about being the first full-time resident from my family of New Hampshire – now I just need to find a home.”

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