FINANCE COMMITTEE Chairman Jack Dahlstedt presents retired Town Administrator Bill Gustus (l) with a magician's hat and magic wand in honor of his financial wizardry on behalf of the town at his retirement party Friday. At right is Gustus's wife, Laura. (Mark Sardella Photo)

FINANCE COMMITTEE Chairman Jack Dahlstedt presents retired Town Administrator Bill Gustus (l) with a magician’s hat and magic wand in honor of his financial wizardry on behalf of the town at his retirement party Friday. At right is Gustus’s wife, Laura. (Mark Sardella Photo)


LYNNFIELD — More than 100 people, including family, friends and a “Who’s Who” of current and former town officials turned out Friday night to honor – and roast – recently retired Town Administrator Bill Gustus at Spinelli’s on Route 1. The tributes were combined with a healthy dose of good-natured ribbing about subjects like Gustus’ golf game, his fashion sense and his fondness for Italian subs.

The retirement party for the man who has led the town for the past 12 years was put together by Assistant to the Administration Bob Curtin. Selectman Phil Crawford served as master of ceremonies and introduced a lineup of speakers, including Finance Committee Chairman Jack Dahlstedt.

Dahlstedt described the first time he walked into Gustus’ office and found the Town Administrator behind stacks of paper piled six feet high.

“I do have to do a little bit of official business tonight,” Dahlstedt quipped. “We’re going to have to redo the budget. We just got the bill for recycling and it’s going to cost us a bundle.”

But Dahlstedt had serious praise for Gustus’ wizardry with town finances. He presented Gustus with a gift of a magician’s top hat and magic wand. “Bill guided us through good times and bad,” Dahlstedt said. “That’s nothing short of magic.”

Town Accountant and Assistant Financial Director Julie McCarthy also lauded Gustus for his overall fiscal management and specifically for his handling of the town’s bond rating.

“Bill was always able to dazzle the rating analysts, even in the bleaker years of the recession,” McCarthy said. “Bill played a major role in the many upgrades the town received over the years, and not once did the town receive a downgrade.”

On a personal note, McCarthy thanked Gustus for his support of town department heads. “I always left his office feeling better than when I arrived,” she said.

Police Chief David Breen joked that Gustus “had more sweaters than Mr. Rogers” and recalled the atmosphere of meetings in Gustus’ office after the Town Administrator had just eaten his customary lunch of an Italian sub.

“He loved onions,” Breen kidded.

Breen observed that in retirement Gustus would be able to spend more time on the golf course. “And after seeing you play a couple of years ago,” Breen told Gustus, “you need to spend a lot more time on the golf course.”

Closing on a serious note, Breen hailed Gustus for his leadership.

“Bill did it all,” Breen said, “and saved the town money in doing so.”

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Dave Nelson presented Gustus with two citations from the state legislature before offering his own good wishes.

“Enjoy the new journey, enjoy your family, enjoy good health and stay safe,” Nelson counseled Gustus. “I am a much better person for having known you.”

Former selectman Bob Whalen recalled being involved in the original hiring of Gustus as Town Administrator.

“I knew early on in his tenure that he was absolutely the right guy for this job,” Whalen said. “He made it look easy and it was anything but. It was a lot of hard work.”

Another former selectman, Bob MacKendrick, also remembered Gustus’ early days on the job.

“When Bill was hired as Town Administrator,” MacKendrick joked, “one of the first things he realized was that the town was sorely lacking a golf course.”

“His wise counsel was invaluable to me and to the town,” MacKendrick said on a more serious note. “It made the town a better place.”

But Lynnfield’s Director of Golf Operations Don Lyons did note one inconsistency in Gustus’ much touted ability with numbers.

“Everybody knows what a financial wizard Bill is – a numbers guy,” Lyons observed. “So how could a guy with such smarts have such a hard time keeping score on a golf course?”

But Lyons also offered serious praise of Gustus’ negotiating abilities, including with regard to the MarketStreet deal.

“Bill’s negotiating skills are second to none,” Lyons noted. “We have a second municipal golf course for no purchase price through his great skills.”

Town Moderator Arthur Bourque needled Gustus about his at times curious wardrobe selections.

“One of the gifts we talked about getting Bill was a professional dressing coach,” Bourque said.

But Bourque called Gustus “absolutely brilliant at what he does. He could have been the CEO of any number of Fortune 500 companies and he would have been incredibly successful. We can all agree,” Bourque said, “that Bill has left the town in much better condition than when he got here.”

When Gustus took the microphone, he couldn’t resist returning some of the comedy fire at the numerous town board and committee members in attendance.

“This might be the biggest violation of the Open Meeting Law yet,” he said, a reference to recent allegations made against the Board of Selectmen.

But mainly, Gustus humbly thanked those in attendance.

“I always thought of myself as a sort of mechanic,” Gustus said. “I took my lead from the Board of Selectmen in each and every case. The goals were the goals of the people as expressed through their elected representatives. I was happy to have been a part of it.”