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Michael Sullivan to wield greater power than past South Hadley town administrators

“I don’t believe there will be any real problems,” he said in a telephone interview.

Sullivan was appointed as new town administrator by the Select Board on Tuesday following a lengthy process that required Town Meeting action and a special election that approved revamping the position.

Sullivan, 57, who was mayor of Holyoke from 2000 to 2010 and is now town administrator in Maynard, will take over a post that pays considerably more and carries greater responsibility than in the past.

The job’s pay scale has been raised to $105,000 to $130,000 and the administrator has greater authority over appointing some officials and handling contract negotiations with unionized town workers. Although the job carries greater authority, the administrator is still an appointed staffer, subject to Select Board oversight.

Paul Beecher, South Hadley town administrator from 2010 to 2012, was paid $85,000. He resigned abruptly in January 2012 when the Select Board declined to renew his three-year contract, which still had a year to run.

Jennifer L. Wolowicz, formerly the town’s personnel and procurement officer, has been named assistant town manager.

John R. Hine, chairman of the Select Board, said Sullivan and administrator finalist Ronald S. San Angelo, 50, former mayor of Naugatuck, Conn., were equally qualified and that the choice came down to “small differences” between the two candidates.

“It was a small plus for Mike Sullivan that he was familiar with Town Meeting form of government,” Hine said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “We probably would have been happy with either (candidate).”

Maynard, a town of 10,000 residents 20 miles west of Boston, uses Town Meeting for financial decisions on its $35 million annual budget, similar to South Hadley.

Sullivan said he has attended three annual Town Meetings in Maynard as town administrator and numerous special Town Meetings, a process he described as “fun, frustrating, educational and interesting.”

“It’s the last bastion of democracy in America,” Sullivan said.

While the new administrator said he “enjoyed” his stint as Maynard’s administrator, “it doesn’t come as a complete surprise” to officials there that he would prefer a job closer to his home at 5 Pheasant Drive in Holyoke.

“They’ve always known that if an opportunity came up for something closer to home, I’d be interested,” said Sullivan, whose three-year contract with Maynard expires March 31.

He called the South Hadley job “a great opportunity to work in a great community,” adding, “There’s no place like home.”

Sullivan and San Angelo were chosen as finalists for the post by the Town Administrator Search Committee, which vetted candidates that had been recruited by the Collins Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

The Select Board hired the Collins Center to conduct the search for a new town administrator for $13,500.

Etta Walsh can be reached at ewalsh.gazette@gmail.com.

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