EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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January 24, 2008

Town manager gives notice

PLAISTOW - Town Manager Jason Hoch gave the selectmen his resignation earlier this week, just halfway through his three-year contract.

Hoch said yesterday that when he signed on in July 2006, he knew the job would require a lot of time. What he didn't realize was how much becoming a father the following March would change his perspective.

"I'm looking at the time demands - day-to-day meetings, mental time, what comes home," he said. "I'm at a point now where I have a little one at home and I want to step back and spend a little more time as a dad."

Because Hoch isn't leaving for another manager position, he's offered to stay on during the search process. At that point, he will start doing consulting work and make his own schedule, he said.

He and his wife, Joanna, plan to stay in town.

Hoch tendered his resignation to the selectmen after their meeting concluded Monday night. He asked them to allow him time to tell town employees before discussing it publicly.

Selectmen Chairwoman Michelle Curran said the board will begin discussing its options Monday night, including whether to hire a company to search for a replacement or do it themselves.

"We really just absorbed the news and wished him well on his endeavors," she said.

Curran said she noticed a change in Hoch when his daughter, Alexa, was born, especially when there were board and committee meetings many evenings a week.

"We're a demanding town," she said.

Selectmen used outside help to find Hoch, who was chosen from a pool of almost 40 applicants. His starting pay was $72,000 a year.

It was a 31/2-month process, but it could be quicker this time, Curran said, depending on how the board chooses to act. Because Selectman Larry Gil was on vacation when Hoch gave his resignation, no decision was made as to whether the selectmen will keep Hoch on until a replacement starts or just for the required 60-day notice period.

Although there is never a good time for a town to be without a manager, Hoch said, he tried to time his resignation to allow for a well-timed search and start period for his successor. The budget and warrant have been finalized, and the next manager would likely have some time to get acclimated before having to start the budget cycle again.

Hoch said it would be early summer before someone new could start.

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