New England Patriots football coach Bill Belichick is the best when it comes to evaluating talent and selecting players who fit the team’s needs. And when locking up a franchise star to a long-term contract, BelichIck’s never blown the chance to get the job done.
Dracut’s Board of Selectmen should on put their Bill Belichick hats and reward their own franchise player — Town Manager Jim Duggan — with a contract that continues to build stability in government operations and keeps the town moving forward.
Duggan’s three-year contract is expiring later this month.
For selectmen, it’s time to double-down on Duggan and lock him up for the forseeable future.
Duggan’s proven to be a very competent, professional and visionary leader in his time in Dracut — skills that make him quite marketable to other communities looking for dynamic talent.
Since 2014 when he was hired, Duggan has helped put Dracut on a major winning streak. While there’s enough credit to go around to all municipal officials, Duggan’s been the relentless heart, soul and spirit of the success.
There’s a wow factor today in Dracut that didn’t exist three years ago.
For instance, a week ago today The Sun’s lead top headline stated: “Lowell’s loss is Dracut’s gain.” It told the story of how Duggan, acting on a tip received just one month ago, recruited Genesis HealthCare to build a $26 million rehabilitation facility on Loon Hill Road. Genesis had planned to build in Lowell. Now its 200 jobs, multimillion-dollar yearly payroll and $330,000 in annual property taxes will land in Dracut.
It’s a major coup. And it says a lot about Dracut’s chief executive: He loves his job, possesses a can-do spirit and won’t quit on the town.
More than $30 million in new commercial development — topped by Lowell General Hospital’s Circle Health facility — has been invested in Dracut during Duggan’s tenure.
Attitudes are changing. Dracut’s becoming a business-friendly town and shedding its historic reputation as a bureaucratic zoning and licensing nightmare.
Fiscally, Duggan’s instituted efficient budgeting practices in all departments, kept tight tabs on the public checkbook and increased the free-cash level from $2.4 million to $5.7 million — that’s a 137 percent increase.
He’s built partnerships to reduce municipal costs — the regional dispatch center will save the town $135,000 this year –and adopted fresh thinking — Lowell’s Coalition for a Better Acre will collaborate to develop the Town Hall Annex on Spring Park Avenue into taxable property of residential units, with Dracut veterans receiving preference.
These are all meaningful accomplishments and exciting initiatives.
Now for the kicker: Jim Duggan earns $145,656 a year — the same salary Lowell pays its high school principal. It’s the lowest salary among managers in 13 comparative communities (Here are a few examples: Billerica, $166,000; Tewksbury, $161,000, Chelmsford, $164,000, Southboro, $170,000.)
Duggan deserves an adjustment at least equal to his peers. In Bill Belichick’s words, Duggan’s done the job. Now it’s up to selectmen to do theirs.