A veteran town administrator who shepherded the construction of a major Route 1 mall while Dedham’s historic downtown district was being overhauled has been named Foxborough’s new town manager.
Selectmen last Tuesday said the similarities in the communities and their needs — and their proximity to business opportunities on the busy highway — were just a few of the reasons why William G. Keegan Jr., a 56-year-old Seekonk resident, is right for the job.
After the unanimous vote, officials agreed to enter contract negotiations with Keegan, who has said he can begin work on April 1. He replaces former town manager Kevin Paicos, whose $151,000-a-year contract was bought out a year early last summer following three contentious years at the helm.
Keegan edged out the other finalists, Norfolk Town Administrator Jack Hathaway, 49, and former Wayland town administrator Frederic E. Turkington Jr., 51, after public interviews last week. Foxborough’s town clerk, Bob Cutler, has been filling in as town administrator, but said he did not want the job permanently.
Although Selectman James DeVellis said he preferred Hathaway, he joined the other four board members in voting for Keegan so the manager can begin his new post with a united front.
In a telephone interview from his home, just moments after his selection Tuesday, Keegan said he was “flattered and pleased” to have landed the job.
Keegan said he loved his 12 years as Dedham’s town administrator, working with smart and talented people, and that he would have stayed willingly if the Foxborough opportunity had not surfaced.
But the opportunity did appear, he said, recognizing, as Foxborough officials do, that his work developing Legacy Place in 2009 on Dedham’s stretch of Route 1 — while Dedham Square was undergoing sweeping upgrades — lends itself well to the new job.
As a practical matter, Keegan said he also welcomes the shorter commute, reducing the current hour each way to just 20 minutes.
“I never go into anything without seriously thinking about it, and this town offers a lot of attractive pieces,’’ he said. “It will be rewarding, professionally and personally.”
As they outlined the reasoning behind their votes, selectmen said Keegan’s team-building and communication skills stood out, as did the planning and development savvy that would be needed to balance a rural New England town with major commercial ventures, including the New England Patriots National Football League franchise it hosts.
Keegan has a bachelor’s degree in history from Westfield State College and a master’s degree in regional planning from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He served as Seekonk’s administrator from 1997 to 2002, when he moved on to Dedham.
Among his strengths, Selectwoman Virginia Coppola said, was his interview and his management style.
“He used to be a town planner and he would understand what goes into good development,” she said.
Keegan also instituted a facilities manager in Dedham to oversee all municipal buildings, Coppola added, something Foxborough could use.
“As we all know, the town of Foxborough’s buildings are all falling apart,’’ she said.
Selectman John Gray said he was impressed with how Keegan rebuilt and returned the character to Dedham’s faded, historic downtown, while Selectwoman Lorraine Brue, who coordinated the manager search, said Keegan’s human resources background, energy, and enthusiasm are big pluses.
After speaking with his employees and colleagues, she said, it is clear no one in Dedham wants to see him go.
Dedham Selectman James MacDonald agreed, but also wished Keegan well.
“I have followed Foxborough’s issues over the years, and I think if they give Bill the tools and the authority, they will not be sorry they hired him,’’ MacDonald said. “He has hired and promoted great people and he has created the best management team in any municipality in the state.’’Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.