Hickey a Finalist for Dracut Town Manager

March 21, 2014

Staff Photo by S. Aaron Shamshoyan Greater Salem Rotary President Nanci Carney stands with Town Manager Keith Hickey after his presentation to members about the 2014 town warrant.

 

by S. Aaron Shamshoyan

Stability in the town manager’s office has been sought by selectmen for years as the position has a high turnover rate, and the board could soon be searching again.

Salem Town Manager Keith Hickey interviewed with Dracut, Mass., Selectmen Tuesday as one of three finalists for the town manager’s position.

During the interview, Hickey said the tenure of the previous manager and respect shown by the board and staff were attractive reasons to lead Dracut.

“I left the communities that I worked in better condition than I found them,” Hickey said.

A question about challenges was answered with examples of his work in Salem, including contract negotiations and staffing reductions.

When first hired in Salem, Hickey said he was confronted with the need to renegotiate five town union contracts, which had been out of agreement for a number of years.  “We were able to negotiate all five contracts within the first fiscal year,” he said.

Staffing reductions were also necessary in Salem, Hickey said, adding it was something a good manager takes personally.

But Dracut selectmen said the town is much different than Salem noting Dracut has no major highways close by and a limited commercial base.

Hickey said the town manager needs to be the face of the community, and he would work with different organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce and rotary clubs to hear concerns of locals and seek economic development.

He also said the town’s website needed improvements.  “Your website is drastically outdated and underutilized,” he told the board.

One of Hickey’s first accomplishments in Salem was updating the town’s website and seeking to keep information current.

He said an updated site would help attract potential businesses and residents.

Salem Selectman Michael Lyons said the need for a new town manager would cost the town financially and again lead the board on another search.

While there would be no financial obligation to Hickey, funds would be needed to cover the cost of seeking a new manager.

Lyons believes one element to Hickey seeking a new employer was excessive oversight by selectmen.  “I think the manager’s hired to do a job and that is to run the town,” he said.  “We ought to let him run the town.”

Hickey signed a three-year contract with Salem in 2010, and his first day was the 2011 Deliberative Session.  An additional year was added to his contract in 2012, and in 2013 he signed a four-year deal.

Hickey is the only candidate for the position currently employed in New Hampshire.  The two other finalists are North Reading, Mass., Town Administrator Greg Balukonis and Gloucester, Mass., Chief Administrative Officer James Duggan.

Hickey previously served as town manager in Merrimac and Bedford.