LONDONDERRY — Following many months of vacancies, Londonderry town officials announced the appointment of both a new town manager and fire chief during a special town council meeting Thursday night.
With little discussion, the council voted unanimously to appoint former gubernatorial candidate Kevin Smith as the new town manager and longtime Londonderry firefighter Darren O'Brien as the new fire chief.
Smith, a Litchfield father of three who graduated from Londonderry High School in 1994, has emceed the local Lancers football games for nearly two decades. He was elected a state representative in 1997 and ran unsuccessfully for governor last term.
With several extended family members still living in Londonderry, Smith said he plans to move back to his hometown sometime in the coming year.
Town Council Vice Chairman Tom Dolan noted the hiring process for the town manager position was a lengthy one, with dozens of candidates interviewed for the job.
Police Chief Bill Hart had been serving as interim town manager for over a year, having initially stepped up to the duties in mid-June 2012, when longtime town manager David Caron announced a leave of absence.
Citing a family illness, Caron, who had been employed as Londonderry Town Manager for nearly 11 years, took what was initially a temporary leave. However, in the days to follow, the town's mismanagement of its impact fees was revealed, and Caron officially resigned on July 20, 2012.
The former town manager earned a $124,640 salary last yearCouncilors said the town residency requirement for the new town manager would be waived for a year, allowing Smith some time to relocate.
The newly hired town manager arrived late at Thursday night's meeting and wasn't in the room when the official announcement was made. He quietly entered Town Hall following the new hire announcements and sat in the audience for the remainder of the meeting, with little fanfare.
Darren O'Brien, who has been serving as interim fire chief since the retirement of former Fire Chief Kevin MacCaffrie in March, was permanently appointed to the position, with the four participating councilors voting unanimously in favor.
Councilor Jim Butler, whose son is a Londonderry firefighter, abstained from the vote.
"He has led this department, restoring its moral," Hart said, shaking O'Brien's hand Thursday night. "This is Londonderry, right here."
Farrell said O'Brien has served the town for 20 years and was truly the star of the night.
Wearing their dress uniforms, dozens of local police and firefighters attended Thursday's meeting, with many gathering at the nearby Coach Stop Restaurant for a celebratory dinner in O'Brien's honor once the meeting ended.
MacCaffrie had served in Londonderry since late 2007. His starting salary with the town was $95,000.