EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 13, 2013

Fitzgerald passed over for Topsfield job

By Alex Lippa

---- — PLAISTOW — The third time wasn’t the charm for Sean Fitzgerald.

The Plaistow town manager was stymied once again in his hunt for a new job as the Topsfield, Mass., Board of Selectmen chose Kellie Hebert to be the next town administrator over Fitzgerald.

“I had made it very clear I was looking for a position that would allow me to spend more time with my family,” Fitzgerald said. “I certainly appreciated the opportunity to discuss my qualifications and am happy to continue to do my best to help with the town of Plaistow.”

This is the third attempt Fitzgerald, 40, has made for another job since he was named town manager in 2008. In 2011, Fitzgerald unsuccessfully ran for mayor of his hometown, Peabody, Mass. In April, he was passed over for town administrator in Manchester, Mass.

Despite Fitzgerald having looked elsewhere, selectmen said they were not upset.

“It comes to no surprise to me, understanding the turnover rate for that position, that (Fitzgerald) might be looking at other opportunities,” Selectmen’s Chairman Bob Gray said. “It will be a concern for the town when and if he takes other employment, but until that time we won’t borrow trouble until trouble borrows us.”

Hebert, the Belmont, Mass. assistant town administrator, got the nod of three of the five Topsfield selectmen. Fitzgerald received the other two votes. The appointment is contingent on contract negotiations.

Fitzgerald said he hopes Plaistow residents don’t fault him for looking elsewhere.

“I hope folks would understand that this isn’t a reflection about how I enjoy my job,” Fitzgerald said. “With new twin boys and some pressing family demands I have to make my family a priority at times.”

Fitzgerald’s wife, Jenni, gave birth to twins earlier this year.

Fitzgerald received a raise and a contract extension from the town at the end of last year. His salary went to $88,000, up from $86,275. Topsfield town administrator Virginia Wilder retired at the end of last year. She most recently earned $100,000 per year.

Selectman Dan Poliquin said he would gladly welcome Fitzgerald back.

“We weren’t looking to replace or release him,” he said. “If we were, then we would have. I never begrudge anyone to do something to better themselves for their family.”

But Poliquin was a little wary about how Plaistow residents would treat Fitzgerald.

“I’m sure there are some citizens that are put off by it,” he said. “There may be some fallout from them or from staff. But I don’t think it’s anything that can’t be rectified or dealt with.”

Fitzgerald, who said he is not looking at any other jobs right now, said his focus will be on Plaistow.

“There’s a lot of work on the horizon,” he said. “Certainly, there is a lot of things to be done here.”