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Swansea makes McAuliffe its pick for administrator.

Byline: Brian Lee

WEBSTER -- Town Administrator John F. McAuliffe appears poised to assume the same job in Swansea, pending contract negotiations.

Mr. McAuliffe said the chairman of the Swansea Board of Selectman called Wednesday morning to notify him he had been selected for the job in the Southeastern Massachusetts community.

But Mr. McAuliffe said he was already aware of the action from Swansea's late-running Tuesday night meeting because a friend who's in Costa Rica forwarded him information from social media.

In his office Wednesday, Mr. McAuliffe scrolled through congratulatory text messages from friends and said:

"I'm flattered that the Swansea board selected me as their top candidate. I haven't yet had the opportunity to discuss any potential terms and conditions of employment. This is not a done deal at this point. It's exciting to move forward in the process.''

The Swansea board's vote to offer Mr. McAuliffe the job and begin negotiations on a contract was 2-1.

He was chosen over Fall River City Administrator Cathy Ann Viveiros.

Mr. McAuliffe has been candid about being happy in Webster.

"That is not a hollow statement,'' said Mr. McAuliffe, who worked from 1997 to 2007 in Somerset, the town next door to Swansea.

"It's no secret that I love that area,'' he said.

"I spent 11 years of my life down in that area, and I maintained a lot of friendships, that I actively speak with people in that area every day as part of my personal life.

"Between the location and the friendships, it's a great opportunity,'' he said.

Mr. McAuliffe said he expected to meet with a Swansea board member in the next week to negotiate employment terms, "and we would see if we are both in the ballpark, and then the real decision needs to be made.''

Mr. McAuliffe said he planned to speak to all five Webster selectmen over the phone by the end of Wednesday.

Donald Bourque, vice chairman of the Webster Board of Selectmen, said: "With everything John has accomplished, with getting us off the Moody's (financial outlook) watch list, with helping improve downtown and moving Webster forward, it'd be a sad day to lose the town administrator.

"In the long run, if we were to take what John has done in six years, he's accomplished a tremendous amount for the citizens of Webster. Just imagine what he could accomplish with the rest of his four-year contract that he still has.''

In a reference to Mr. McAuliffe's personality, which some have described as hot-headed, Mr. Bourque offered: "John does get his Irish up, don't get me wrong. He and I have had many conversations about that, and he does sometimes take things personal.

"But, John, if anything, is honest and ethical and would never put Webster in a bad light, and I think that's why he's the right person for the town at this time,'' Mr. Bourque said.

In Swansea, the lone dissenter said he wanted to interview more candidates for the job and had expressed concern about Mr. McAuliffe's background.

On YouTube, there is a segment that shows Mr. McAuliffe losing his patience with Wareham selectmen during a meeting, months before he was fired by that town in 2008.

Mr. McAuliffe, according to the Herald News of Fall River, told Swansea selectmen during his interview that the Wareham board was aggressive and had an agenda to close a town department, while Mr. McAuliffe said he thought he was being played like a wedge in town and was challenged ethically, and he fought back.

On Wednesday, Mr. McAuliffe said: "On paper it looks like I was a train wreck, but I wouldn't change a thing.''

Meanwhile, it's budget season, and Mr. McAuliffe has been saying since December that he thinks it's going to be a challenging year for Webster, with increases in health insurance and operating costs.

"In the event that somehow my career path changes,'' he said of the budget, "I can assure you that the involvement and the decision-making will be very much hands-on.''

He added, "When you spend six years in a community, and you buy a home here, it becomes part of the fabric of your life, and you want to see your town prosper.''

Contact Brian Lee at Follow him on Twitter at @BleeTG
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Lee, Brian
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 2, 2015
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