Published in the December 27, 2017 edition


LYNNFIELD — A new face will be leading Town Hall in the new year.

On Dec. 20, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to offer the open town administrator job to Melrose Mayor Robert J. Dolan, pending contract negotiations. Dolan will succeed former Town Administrator Jim Boudreau, who left Lynnfield earlier this month after agreeing to become the top municipal official in Scituate.

THE BOARD OF SELECTMEN voted to appoint Melrose Mayor Robert Dolan as the next town administrator on Dec. 20. (Dan Tomasello Photo)

Interim Town Administrator Bob Curtin, who has been the assistant to the administration since 2009, was the other finalist for the position.

Selectmen Chairman Chris Barrett said both candidates are exceptional. He said Curtin “is one of the most respected men in town” and “knows Lynnfield better than anyone.” However, Barrett made a motion to appoint Dolan as TA because he said the mayor’s municipal and financial experience set him apart.

“(Dolan) has exceptional knowledge when it comes to developing budgets during difficult times, navigating many mandates and working with local unions,” said Barrett. “Mayor Dolan has had a strong track record of going from a single A bond-rated community with minimal reserves and a negative outlook into a AA plus bond-rated community with historic reserves in one of the most challenging financial times.”

Selectman Phil Crawford seconded Barrett’s motion.

“Having gone through this process before, there is a specific type of person that we look for,” said Crawford. “The town administrator is our chief financial officer. The mayor has a vast amount of experience in not only financial management but also working with unions and communities. I think he is ready to make the move, and I think that would be in the best interest for the town of Lynnfield. One of the silver linings for the town is Bob Curtin will remain with the town. We will not only have a very strong and experienced town administrator, but we will retain Bob and his knowledge about the town.”

While Selectman Dick Dalton voted to appoint Dolan, he preferred appointing Curtin as the town’s next TA.

“It’s a difficult choice, but in my mind it boils down to having known the man for some 30 years and watching him firsthand,” said Dalton. “(Curtin) is someone who is part of this town and he is someone who is held in the highest regard. Mayor Dolan’s accomplishments are very impressive, but I think Bob understands this town better than someone from the outside would. I think with Bob, we wouldn’t be skipping a beat.”

In an interview with the Villager after the meeting, Curtin thanked the selectmen for considering him for the town administrator position.

“I am disappointed in the vote, but I am gratified the board considered me and I enjoyed the process,” said Curtin. “The board wants what is in the best interests for the citizens of Lynnfield, which is what we all want. I am looking forward to working with the new town administrator and the board.”

Interview held prior to vote

Dolan and Curtin were interviewed by the selectmen before the vote took place. The two finalists answered questions about communication, economic development, financial management, leadership style and working with local officials and employees.

Dolan began his interview by thanking the selectmen for considering him for the town administrator position.

“It’s an honor to be here as a finalist with Mr. Curtin, who is an incredibly well respected individual in this community,” said Dolan.

Dolan recalled how Melrose “was almost in receivership” when he was first elected mayor in 2001.

“The city was incredibly divided,” said Dolan. “I had to take a community that I loved and slowly build a team of citizens and department heads, which I believe is one of the great Massachusetts municipal success stories. I love that community, but my family now is ready to make a change.”

With new growth from MarketStreet leveling off, Barrett asked Dolan how he would handle a challenging budget year.

Dolan said he has dealt with challenging budgets over the course of his 16-year tenure as Melrose’s mayor.

“I understand tight budgets because I have never not had one,” said Dolan. “Our new growth is very limited, but we have been able to work together and have been very creative without needing an override to create the Melrose that is four miles down the road.”

In response to a question from Dalton about leadership style, Dolan said he has a close working relationship with elected officials, department heads and employees in Melrose. He said the same will be true in Lynnfield.

“My general management philosophy is to hire the best people and let them to do their job,” said Dolan. “No department is excused from a lack of accountability, proper management and being able to explain their vision to the public which they serve.”

Barrett asked Dolan how would he balance bringing in additional commercial development while maintaining Lynnfield’s small town charm.

Dolan said Melrose has had “significant growth over the last 10 years,” but said the city has been able to strike a balance between expanding its commercial development and maintaining the city’s character.

“Both of our communities need new growth in order to maintain our quality of life,” said Dolan. “We want to grow, but it’s important to make people feel we are not working for developers and we are working for people.”

In response to a question from Crawford, Dolan noted there is a big difference between being a town administrator and a mayor.

“I understand this role is different and I embrace it,” said Dolan. “My job as a professional manager is to assist and guide you with options and information. Your job is to set a vision for this town, and my job is to get you there.”

Dolan highlighted his communication skills as well. He said he uses a blog, Podcasts and neighborhood meetings to keep residents informed about what is taking place in the city.

Additionally, Dolan said he has developed a strong working relationship with Melrose unions.

“Labor is not the enemy,” said Dolan. “I think if you spoke to any of our unions, I think they will find me to be a fair and reasonable individual to work with.”

During Curtin’s interview, he recalled how his relationship with the town began over 30 years ago when he was working as a reporter with the Lynnfield Weekly News.

“In one way or another, I have been serving the residents of Lynnfield since 1985,” said Curtin. “I didn’t expect to stay in Lynnfield for all that long. As an outsider who has experienced other communities, I can tell you that Lynnfield is an extremely unique community. It pulled me in.”

He highlighted his knowledge about the town and his close working relationship with boards, department heads and employees. He said that tradition would continue if he was appointed town administrator.

Curtin delivered the line of the night when Crawford asked him if there was anything embarrassing in his background.

“I have lived a very bland life,” Curtin deadpanned, prompting the selectmen and audience to crack up laughing.

“That’s a good answer,” said Crawford.