Published in the December 16, 2015 edition
By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD — Vietnam veteran Bruce Siegel was appointed to be the town’s next Veterans’ Services Agent, succeeding Jason Kimball, who stepped down in November after two years in the position.
All three selectmen noted the difficulty in making the decision given the talented slate of five candidates who stepped forward to fill the part-time position last month.
Selectmen Chairman Phil Crawford commented, “We have to make a decision on who we think is the best fit for the town. It doesn’t reflect on the other candidates. When you have five good choices, it’s difficult to choose just one.”
Crawford added, “I encourage the other four candidates to keep their eye out for other positions in town and feel free to apply for those because based on your resumes and track records, I would be glad to consider you for any other position in town.”
In addition to Siegel, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1968-72, the candidates included retired Army Colonel Joseph Connell; Army veteran Dr. Jason Freshman, who is a retired dentist; Army veteran Stephen Patten, who is currently an Essex Assistant D.A.; and Army veteran Gerald Shulman, a retired attorney.
Connell served in both Afghanistan and Iraq, including as Chief of Staff for U.S. Forces in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2008-09. Patten’s service with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps included two tours in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division.
In nominating Siegel for the position, Crawford said, “The work as a veterans’ service officer is an important and I think the right fit is important for us to determine. The one that stuck out for me was a gentleman who has worked with our veterans’ services officer in the past. He has marshaled some of our parades and he has worked closely with other departments in town.”
Selectman Tom Terranova agreed with Crawford that the decision was a difficult one. “What you said was spot on. This was a very difficult. Everybody brings a lot of different attributes to the position. Mr. Connell, the experience you had as a manager is phenomenal. But the one person that really made a big impression with me is the gentleman who lost 50 mates,” Terranova said, referring to Patten.
“I don’t know who would be more driven after losing 50 friends. You had to endure many tests and you need to count on each other to survive. I know that you are not from Lynnfield, but that has left such a burning impression in my mind from when you spoke that I really think you would be an excellent fit,” Terranova added. Patten resides in West Peabody, where he grew up.
Selectman Chris Barrett said he also agreed with both of his colleagues. “Each one of these individuals are a best fit. The resumes that came before us and their service is just exemplary,” he said.
Barrett said his decision to second Crawford’s motion for Siegel came down to past and current service to the town, adding that he has worked personally with Siegel “for the last decade or so.” He also noted that Siegel has worked closely with Kimball in the past and understands the needs of the position.
“It was a very difficult decision to make. Bruce is somebody who has been serving in that position with Jason Kimball and it certainly would be a seamless transition,” Barrett said.
The vote to approve Siegel as Veterans’ Services Agent passed 2-1 with Terranova opposed. The crowd at the Dec. 7 selectmen’s meeting, which included many members of the Lynnfield Fire Department, offered Siegel a round of applause following the vote.
A resident of town for 18 years, Siegel retired last summer after 21 years as a state auditor, which included 11 years as a senior housing auditor for the state Department of Housing and Community Development and 10 years as an audit supervisor for the Office of the State Auditor.