DRACUT -- As the five members of the Board of Selectmen penned their names Tuesday on a three-year employment agreement with Jim Duggan, officially making him Dracut's new town manager, Selectman John Zimini said the multipage document reminded him of signing a home mortgage.
"That'll be me next," Duggan remarked cheerily.
Duggan, a Lowell native and Gloucester's chief administrator, said he plans to follow through on a promise made during his job interview that he and his wife will relocate from their current home in Beverly.
"This is the opportunity of a lifetime for me," Duggan said after thanking the board for its unanimous support for his contract. "It's something that I have worked very hard in my professional a career for, to come back home. My wife and I are looking forward to relocating and being a permanent part of this community. I'm very excited for the opportunity."
Duggan's contract signing and speech were applauded several times by about 100 members of the standing-room-only audience at Harmony Hall, most of whom were there to hear a presentation by Allen Fore, lead representative of Kinder Morgan, on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline that is being proposed to run through Dracut.
Duggan, who was hired nearly five months after the retirement of 26-year Town Manager Dennis Piendak, will take the reins from interim Town Manager Ann Vandal on May 5, Selectmen Chairwoman Cathy Richardson said.
"Mr. Duggan showed he was the best man for the job," Selectman Joe DiRocco said before the contract signing. "The reports we got back from Gloucester on him were all positive."
Selectmen Richardson, Bob Cox, John Zimini and Tony Archinski all welcomed Duggan warmly.
"Jim Duggan comes here with a wealth of knowledge and background in municipal finance and I look forward to seeing him prosper," said Zimini. "And I hope you'll be here for a long time, Jim."
Duggan's starting annual salary will be $140,000, the same as Piendak earned in his final years.
Duggan concluded his speech by inviting residents to introduce themselves about town.
"Feel free if you see me out and about nights around town, at the supermarket or anything like that, to come up and chat," he said.
Richardson voiced special thanks to Vandal, who is also the town's finance director, for having ably served a dual role as the acting manager for five months.
"We want to take special note of what a wonderful and extraordinary job you have done," Richardson told Vandal. "You are an asset to this town, and we appreciate your work tremendously."
Vandal, who was recently a finalist for the vacant executive-assistant position in Hudson, was precluded by Dracut's charter from interviewing for the town-manager opening because she did not have the requisite five years' experience in that position.
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