LENOX -- After a whirlwind, 90-minute session at Town Hall, the Select Board announced Saturday morning that Christopher Ketchen, a native of Alford and current finance director in Hopkinton, has been hired as the new town manager.
Both Ketchen and Select Board Chairman David Roche said they were "thrilled" with the quick agreement reached during a closed-door session that board members described as primarily a "conversation" rather than a negotiation.
Under a three-year contract, Ketchen will earn $110,000 in the first year and receive benefits comparable to other Town Hall managers. His start date in Lenox is April 7.
The contract requires approval by town counsel Kopelman and Paige and is subject to completion of a formal background check and a physical for Ketchen.
"He did 20 pushups for us, so we’re good," said Roche amid laughter, adding that he was "delighted" with the outcome of the meeting.
Ketchen, impeccably attired in a dark business suit, smiled broadly as he was congratulated by the Select Board members and co-Interim Town Manager Mary Ellen Deming.
"We’re working it out so Christopher can come up before his start date and do some work with Mary Ellen and us" on a part-time consulting basis, said Selectman John McNinch.
"We had a great conversation and worked out a deal that everybody’s happy with," McNinch added. "It wasn’t a battle at all, it was ‘let’s agree on what everyone’s going to be happy with,’ and that’s exactly what we did.
McNinch explained that Ketchen had sought assurances that the town would be happy with the agreement, and those assurances were conveyed.
"The words we used when we first started this process was finding someone who fits," commented Selectman Kenneth Fowler. "This guy fits. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the right piece in the right place."
Roche and other Select Board members offered profuse thanks to the local search committee that selected three semifinalists before the Selectmen voted unanimously jn favor of Ketchen.
Two committee members, Realtor Mary Jo Piretti and resident Carlo Zaffanella, a General Dynamics vice-president, were on hand to hear the official announcement of the successful outcome. Acting as headhunter and consultant for the search was Donald Jutton, president of Municipal Resources, Inc., in Meredith, N.H.
"I don’t have the words to thank them enough," said Roche, addressing Piretti and Zaffanella. Also on the local search committee were Jay Carberry, the chairman, Fran Vahle and Marybeth Mitts.
"We’re very thrilled and happy to have Chris in Lenox," said Piretti, who complimented the Selectmen for a smooth outcome.
"We’re very fortunate, he’s terrific," added Zaffanella. "A good job by everybody."
"What made it go so quickly and smoothly is that we all want the same things," said Ketchen, a Natick resident who will relocate with his family to Lenox as required by the town charter. "I’m anxious to be a part of the town and we all want to see the town succeed, so we start from that foundation. Everything falls into place after that."
"Everyone else used the word thrilled, I think that’s the theme of the morning," he added.
Ketchen said he will be formally introduced to the community by the Selectmen at the annual town meeting on May 1. "The extent of my participation will become clearer as time goes on," he said.
He also expressed the hope and intention of a long-term commitment to the town. "Boards change and circumstances change, but we’re all going into this with the long view," said Ketchen. He plans to work on a "strategic approach to both management and policy within 60 days of my start date."
A graduate of Mount Everett Regional High School in Sheffield and the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, the new town manager is the son of Charles and Karen Ketchen of Alford. He is married to the former Kimberly Jean Clouser of Sheffield; they have a 3-year-old son.
Before taking his post in Hopkinton, a Middlesex County town of 15,000, in July 2012, Ketchen had held town government posts in Wellesley and served in the state Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services as a financial analyst from 2006 to 2008. He began his career in municipal government in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
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On Twitter: @BE_cfanto