Never Let Me Go

Tony Marino is leaving his post as Ipswich town manager, a lamentable development.

But such a tragedy need not be repeated.

As we begin our search for a successor, we can set up the position parameters in such a way our next town manager will be sure to stay put, and succeed.

The great controversy surrounding Tony, of course, has been his place of residence, which is not Ipswich but Lynnfield. Ipswich requires its town manager to reside in Ipswich within a year of their first contract renewal. Tony is escaping at the last possible moment, taking the manager position in Winthrop, where the rules are looser.

The solution for Ipswich, going forward, is not to align with virtually every town in the region by getting looser, but rather by getting tighter. 

Allow me to sketch out the ideal array of requirements:

(A)   The new town manager must have skin in the game by being an Ipswich resident on Day 1. 

The fact that we don’t pay our town manager enough to live in Ipswich is no excuse. Residency doesn’t automatically indicate homeownership, or even apartment-rentership. Lots of people live outdoors. We have plenty of officially designated open space; it’s one of our finest distinctives. I have a large used tent in very good condition which I’ll sell cheap.

(B)   The new town manager must also shop in town.

No spending your salary, the hard-earned tax dollars paid by conscientious Ipswich citizens, to boost the lifestyles of people in other places. Lynnfield, indeed.

No trips across the Rowley line to save money at Market Basket. There’s nothing at Market Basket you can’t get at Shaw’s, other than a few things, which you probably don’t really need anyway; they’re unnecessary luxuries, and bad for you.

No sneaking around the rule by using Amazon, either. Shop local, pal, or don’t shop at all.

The new town manager will be given a town credit card, a town laptop, and a town smartphone, so all spending can be tracked. All personal credit cards, laptops, and smartphones will be confiscated on Day 1. Also all cash. And coins. Also any uncashed casino chips.

(C)  The new town manager must eat in town.

We have numerous superb eateries and drinkeries. How can our town manager pretend to advance Ipswich interests while wantonly wolfing waffles in Wenham?

There is simply no need to cross into Rowley for Olde Town ice cream, or into Essex for Down River ice cream, when we have a perfectly good Dairy Queen right here on High Street. Plus, from White Farms you can see Rowley. That’s far enough for our town manager. Keep your focus.

(D)  The new town manager must never leave town.

No invisible fence and shock collar; that’s going too far — unless we have a compliance problem at some point, at which point we can consider it. Meanwhile, the manager’s vehicle will be equipped with the LoJack tracking system — at town expense, of course, so no complaining — and monitored by the Ipswich police.

The town manager may ride the train, but only to the town line. Just before crossing into Rowley to the north or Hamilton to the south, the town manager will be obligated to jump from the train.

Town managers often attend conferences, seminars, and other events designed to help town managers learn things that will enhance their performance, but our town manager will already know all those things and won’t need performance enhancement, except possibly a little help on safely jumping from a train.

Our town manager will be able to attend out-of-town events online, or better yet, demand that these events relocate to Ipswich. The genius of this is that attenders will probably buy lunch here, or fill up the tank, boosting our economy and covering the cost of LoJack.

(E)   The new town manager will receive a cemetery plot free of charge.

When we say we want the next town manager to stay, we mean it.


Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where he nurses what former town manager Robin Crosbie called his “morbid fascination with town government.” Follow Doug at DougBrendel.com.

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