When he takes over as Wilmington’s town manager on Oct. 1., Jeff Hull will hardly need an introduction to the town.
Since 1987, Hull has served as assistant town manager in Wilmington, first under Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski, and since 1990 under Michael A. Caira.
With Caira set to retire Sept. 30, selectmen dispensed with a regular search, and named Hull to succeed him. The May 29 appointment, which is subject to the board and Hull reaching contract terms, came on a 4-0 vote, with one member abstaining because he is a town employee.
Hull, 50, was a candidate for Wilmington’s town manager job once before, when Caira was appointed in 1990.
“I’m really excited and certainly appreciative of the fact that the board gave me the opportunity,” said Hull, a longtime Billerica resident. Noting that the board could have gone through a standard search process, Hull said he was grateful selectmen “had the confidence to give me the first shot.”
Board of Selectmen chairman Michael J. Newhouse said that “from my position, which I think is shared by the rest of the board, it would have been disingenuous to go through a search process if I’m already convinced we have the best candidate right in front of us.”
“Jeff is a known quantity who’s been an integral part of a successful management team for over two decades now,” Newhouse said. “He’s demonstrated a unique commitment to the town. He certainly knows the town very well and I think he’s in the best position to continue the good work that has been done over the last 10 to 20 years.”
One of Hull’s immediate concerns as town manager would be to select a new assistant manager, a task for which he is already laying the groundwork.
“I’m in the process of really trying to reassess the responsibilities of the assistant town manager and probably will look to tweak it to some degree,” he said.
Hull said another priority will be to help oversee the $82 million project to build a new high school. Voters last year appropriated the funds and approved a debt exclusion, or temporary tax increase, for the project, for which 55 percent of eligible costs will be reimbursed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
“That’s going to be a major focus, to make sure we can stick closely to the schedule we laid out and come in within budget, and with the design and elements that we have decided upon for this project,” he said.
The project is currently stalled by two appeals filed with state Department of Environmental Protection against an order of conditions the Conservation Commission required to approve the project.
Hull said the DEP is expected to issue a superseding order soon, and if it is not appealed, site work could begin this summer.
Hull said his immediate agenda could also include finalizing new contracts with one or more of the three unions whose contracts expire at the end of this month.
Caira said selectmen made a “great choice” in naming Hull.
“I think it’s a natural fit. He’s demonstrated over the last 25 years a commitment to the community and I couldn’t be happier with him being my successor… . . . He’s been involved in so much going on that he will bring an institutional knowledge to the position.”
Caira said the town has appointed from within in filling some key posts over the years, noting that the current school superintendent, Joanne Benton, had been assistant superintendent prior to being hired, and that Stapczynski was assistant town manager in Wilmington before he was named to the manager’s post.
Hull said he expects to bring to the job the same conservative approach to budgeting that Caira has maintained.
“Having worked with Mike now for 22 years, it’s clear to me that that approach has proven to be very advantageous to the town,” he said, citing the fact that Wilmington has $9.5 million in free cash reserves, and has not had to cut services or impose many of the fees other communities have.
With his wife, Tina, Hull has two sons, Ben, 16, and Nathaniel, 12.
Growing up in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Salisbury, and North Adams, Hull graduated from Drury High School in North Adams. He went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Bryant College, in Rhode Island, in 1983, and later a masters’ degree in public administration from Northeastern University in 1988.
After interning in the office of North Adams mayor Richard Lamb in his last college semester in 1983, Hull was hired that fall as administrative assistant in Ayer, overseeing many of the town’s daily operations. He remained in that post until he came to Wilmington in 1987.
When Caira earned the town manager’s appointment in 1990, he asked Hull to remain as assistant town manager, and Hull agreed.
His 25 years with the town have given him an appreciation for Wilmington that is part of what makes Hull enthused about his new managerial opportunity.
“There is just a real community spirit here,” said Hull, whose family attends church in town. “There are so many different volunteer groups that are doing great things. . . . I think that really creates a great environment here.”
Hull admits filling Caira’s shoes will not be easy.
Recalling a comment he made to department heads at a recent meeting, Hull said, “It’s a little like [Patriots back-up quarterback] Brian Hoyer stepping in for Tom Brady. He will be a formidable act to follow.”