DRACUT -- Selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday night to offer the job of town manager to James Duggan, Gloucester's chief administrator.

In a phone call made to Duggan in a brief executive session immediately after the board's 5-0 vote, Duggan said "yes" to the job offer pending salary negotiations, Chairwoman Cathy Richardson told the Harmony Hall audience.

Richardson thanked the two other finalists who interviewed publicly for the town-manager position last week -- Salem, N.H., Town Manager Keith Hickey and North Reading Town Administrator Greg Balukonis -- describing them as highly qualified and deserving of being hired elsewhere.

James Duggan has accepted the offer to become Dracut’s next town manager, pending salary negotiations.Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our
James Duggan has accepted the offer to become Dracut's next town manager, pending salary negotiations.

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our Smugmug site.

Before the vote, selectmen praised Duggan across the board as the most enthusiastic, visionary and capable of the three finalists.

The board's vote to offer Duggan the position was taken on a motion made by Selectman John Zimini, who touted Duggan's impressive job performance in Gloucester since he began working in the city in 2008.

"He will come here with a great enthusiasm to expand economic development, as well as bringing a fiscal conservatism in areas this board is used to," said Zimini, who also noted Duggan's grant-writing experience and expertise.

Selectman Joe DiRocco, who seconded Zimini's motion, said that "all the feedback has been excellent" that he'd received on Duggan in the past week from Gloucester's department heads and the city's mayor.

"The mayor said she will really hate to lose him, but in all reality he is ready for the next step to be a manager somewhere," DiRocco said before the vote. "The guy has a lot going for him, a lot of vision. And that was a big thing to me, that's what we're looking for. He will set goals for himself, and from what I've heard from everybody in Gloucester, he follows through."

Selectman Tony Archinski cited Duggan's master's degree in public administration from Suffolk University, his experience handling a $110 million annual budget, and his "enthusiasm, leadership, accessibility and innovative thinking" among factors that made Duggan far and away Archinski's top choice for the manager's post.

"Most importantly, Jim Duggan convinced me that he wants to be part of this community, that he was looking forward to doing this job, that he is up to the task and that he's a good fit for this job," Archinski said. "I want to be part of the team that welcomes him to Dracut."

Selectman Bob Cox reported that he spoke with numerous Gloucester department heads on Thursday and visited with city employees at their workplaces in the city on Friday and heard nothing but positive comments about their interactions with Duggan.

"Everyone, to a man or woman, said nothing but positive things about him," said Cox. "I'm extremely happy that he at least will be offered the job after tonight, and we'll go from there."

Duggan's taking the reins as Dracut's next town manager is dependent on his signing an employment agreement with the Board of Selectmen. The board's negotiations with Duggan are scheduled to begin in executive session on Tuesday, April 1, at 6:30 p.m.

Dracut's Town Charter does not allow for selectmen to enter into a multi-year contract agreement with a town manager. The town's longest-serving manager, Dennis Piendak, was signed to a year-to-year employment agreement during his 27 years of service to the town.

The town has been without a permanent full-time manager since the Nov. 15 retirement of Piendak. Selectmen named Ann Vandal interim manager on Nov. 4.

After a previous search last fall, the board chose Andover Assistant Town Manager Steven Bucuzzo to take the full-time job before two months of negotiations ended in failure.

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