ITEM FILE PHOTO
Peabody resident Sean Fitzgerald waits his turn to be interviewed for town administrator of Swampscott in this December 2016 photo.
By GAYLA CAWLEY
SWAMPSCOTT — Sean Fitzgerald, a Peabody resident and town manager in Plaistow, N.H., will be making his way back home as he accepts the Swampscott town administrator position.
“Swampscott’s just a wonderful community,” Fitzgerald said. “I have been a town manager for eight years (and) have certainly enjoyed helping communities find their potential … Working closer to home would certainly give me an opportunity to do what I love and spend more time with my family.”
Fitzgerald, a lifelong resident of the North Shore, said he spent much of his childhood in Swampscott. His grandmother was a nurse at Hadley Elementary School for decades and his mother grew up on Bay View Drive. As the new administrator, he said he wants to help Swampscott continue to be the enchanted place that he loves.
Fitzgerald said he plans to meet with the selectmen after he begins his new job to figure out their priorities. He said there’s been a number of important goals identified in the town’s master plan, including protecting the waterfront and promoting commercial development.
Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said Fitzgerald immediately accepted the town administrator position after it was offered to him following his public interview last week. She said he agreed to meet with the board after the new year for contract negotiations.
Dreeben said the start date will also be negotiated, but she’s hoping it’s within 45 to 60 days.
“I think he has a nice combination of leadership skills and interpersonal relationship skills,” Dreeben said. “He’s also had excellent experience as a town manager. He already knows what goes into doing the job. I think we liked his combination of enthusiasm, as well as experience.”
Dreeben said some of the priorities the selectmen will have for Fitzgerald will include forward movement on the development of the former Machon Elementary School and old Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue. She said he’ll be expected to help put together a stronger five-year and capital plan for the town, and develop more robust budgeting processes.
She said the selectmen also plan on working with the school officials on bringing a potential new school building to town. Dreeben said Fitzgerald’s past experience in Peabody with school building projects will be helpful.
Before becoming town manager in Plaistow in 2008, Fitzgerald served as chief of staff to former Peabody Mayor Michael Bonfanti. In his resume, he outlines that one of those projects included writing a statement of interest that led to the successful construction of the new Higgins Middle School.
“I’m excited about beginning to work with him and I’m looking forward to the new year,” said Dreeben.
Fitzgerald was hired in nearby Saugus last year, serving less than a week as town manager. He was sworn in a day before a recall election that unseated four of the five members of the Saugus Board of Selectmen. His contract was voided a week later after the four new selectmen were sworn in. Saugus reinstated Town Manager Scott Crabtree, who was fired by the previous board. Fitzgerald was reinstated in Plaistow.
Gino Cresta, department of public works director, has been serving as the interim town administrator since mid-October, when former Town Administrator Thomas Younger left for the same job in Stoneham. Town Accountant David Castellarin, who also serves as assistant town administrator, has been in charge of the budget during the interim tenure.
Gayla Cawley can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.