Milton selectmen were unanimous: interim Town Administrator Annemarie Fagan will be Milton’s new town administrator.
Fagan, who left the room while selectmen made their decision at Thursday’s meeting, returned to congratulations.
“I’m so honored,” Fagan said. “I really look forward to working with all of you. Thank you.”
Selectmen interviewed four candidates including Fagan at a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 21. The other candidates were Great Barrington Town Manager Kevin O’Donnell; former Narragansett, R.I., Town Manager Grady Miller; and former Londonderry, N.H., Town Manager David Caron.
Caron wound up taking a position at another town, but his leaving the field of candidates did not alter selectmen’s decision.
Selectmen all said Fagan was their first choice and Miller their second choice.
Selectman Denis Keohane said he was impressed with Miller, particularly that he had done his homework for the interview and that he had ideas for saving the town money.
But he leaned toward Fagan, describing her as honest, creative, and a joy to work with.
“I feel that she is the lion in a cage just waiting to be exposed,” Keohane said. “I feel she could be a great leader if we let her be.”
Fagan has 18 years of experience working for the town of Milton; 13 of those years were as assistant town administrator. She has also served as interim town administrator on three separate occasions, most recently since selectment decided last summer not to renew former Town Administrator Kevin Mearn’s contract.
Selectman Robert Sweeney said he liked that Miller spoke about the importance of communication and also that he was associated with the Rotary Club and with a church. But he likewise chose Fagan for the top spot.
“She works well in terms of communicating with department heads, is open and honest with employees and with the selectmen,” Sweeney said. “She has common sense and is a proven hard worker.”
Keohane added that the board had witnessed Fagan successfully negotiate with seven unions over the past several months.
Selectmen Chairman Tom Hurley agreed with his colleagues. While he was partly intrigued by getting some new blood and new ideas into the town, which Miller represented, his working closely with Fagan over the past eight months won him over, he said.
“She has some great insight into how the town works and she has some great ideas she hasn’t had a chance to implement yet,” Hurley said.
The one hesitation in Hurley’s mind was that Fagan did not meet the education requirement of a bachelor’s degree that selectmen had previously implemented.
In her Feb. 21 interview, Fagan indicated that she had completed all but a semester of college work toward a degree.
Selectmen agreed that when Hurley negotiated with Fagan as chairman, he should require her to attain her bachelor’s degree. They then unanimously voted to make her town administrator.
Fagan was among 40 applicants who applied for the position, 12 of which were interviewed by a search committee. The position opened up after Keohane and Sweeney voted not to renew Mearn’s contract, indicating he had communication issues with the town’s police chief, Richard Wells.
Fagan will now begin a search for an assistant town administrator.
“That will be the first thing I start on Monday,” Fagan said.