Aaron Frank, Colchester’s assistant town manager and chief financial officer, will take over for outgoing town manager Dawn Francis in May, town officials announced at Monday night’s pre-Town Meeting event.
Francis disclosed her impending retirement at a selectboard meeting in January, resolving to travel and take on new adventures with her family. The board had not spoken publicly about efforts to hire a replacement since then.
“The selectboard is extremely thrilled and looking forward to a continued working relationship with Aaron Frank as our new town manager,” selectboard chairwoman Nadine Scibek said. “We have every confidence in his ability to continue the extraordinary path that retiring town manager Dawn Francis has started.”
Frank said the selectboard invited him to an informal meeting after Francis revealed her departure plans. There, board members said they’d essentially been interviewing him for the last four-and-a-half years, Frank said.
“It’s a thrill and an honor to be able to serve this community,” Frank said in an interview after the announcement. “I feel like a great foundation has been laid.”
Frank is a notoriously modest jack-of-all-trades who recently made a name for himself as the de facto leader of the regionalized emergency services dispatch proposal. The work earned him the Frances B. Elwell Award for outstanding achievement in November.
“He’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with,” Francis told the Sun late last year. “Aaron is the complete package.”
Francis hired Frank as the second-in-command when she took the helm in 2013. Formerly the assistant general manager at Green Mountain Transit (previously known as CCTA), Frank is a Colchester resident and Florida native. In his free time, he sails, works with the Scout program in town and spends time with his two sons.
The new manager said he will prioritize projects and improvements outlined in the Heritage Project, a town visioning effort published a half-dozen years ago, as well as efforts to promote clean water.
Frank will begin visiting with the local boards, commissions and community groups next month to prepare for his new role and will “work closely” with Francis to ensure a smooth transition, according to a town-issued press release.
He also will be tasked with finding an employee to fill his soon-to-be vacated role. Frank said he seeks a candidate with complementary skills, a dynamic currently present in his working relationship with Francis.
The pair once told the Sun they often pick opposing sides of a controversial issue facing the town and host a mock debate in preparation for an upcoming public discussion.
“The selectboard has seen Aaron’s tireless and outstanding work for the town first-hand for the last four years, and the entire board has no doubt that he is the right person for this job,” the release said.
Both Frank and Francis earned a standing ovation from the crowd gathered at Monday’s event. For her part, Francis seemed to embrace the new lame duck status.
After matter-of-factly answering a citizen question about merging fire departments, Francis offered a sheepish shrug toward the line-up of selectboard members.
“If I spoke out of turn, oh well!” she said with a smirk. “I’m almost done.”