“It’s certainly not a routine first day!”
Mattapoisett’s new Town Administrator Michael Lorenco embraced the obvious as he embarked upon his first day on March 16.
The Wanderer sat down with Lorenco that afternoon, a day punctuated by difficulties related to COVID-19. Lorenco expressed the challenges of not only beginning a new job but beginning at a time when decisions needed to be made in rapid succession to ensure that residents and town employees remained as safe as possible.
“We’ve been hand-delivering notices to businesses such as restaurants to make sure they are in compliance with the latest state-issued mandates,” Lorenco said.
At press time the Governor’s office had set the maximum number of people gathering at any given location at 25 people to be lifted on April 6. However, at the same time, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were suggesting gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled for the next eight weeks. Lorenco commented that the situation is very fluid.
Lorenco said that plans were in the making to accommodate town employees that need support should they or family members become ill. Plans were shaping up for some employees to work from home. Planning for public meetings and hearings was also being discussed but with no clear path forward at the present time, as the head of the Mattapoisett leadership team acknowledged the importance of the town’s business operating at some levels.
For the first time in its history, Mattapoisett’s Town Hall closed its doors to the public effective March 16 at 4:00 pm until at least April 6. Lorenco said that an outside dropbox was in place allowing documents and payments to continue to flow into Town Hall.
“We want people to be safe,” Lorenco said, adding that given the symptoms are so similar to “regular” flu people may not know they are infected. The pandemic was very much on his mind and hard to ignore even for a few moments. “COVID-19 has put us into planning mode.”
Setting those concerns aside as best he could, Lorenco said that he would be looking at the large capital projects facing the community as high on his list of things to come up to speed on quickly.
Also ranking high on the list from Lorenco’s perspective was the need to address the Town Hall building itself, acknowledging that early study of the structure seems to be pointing away from renovating the current building given its age and condition.
Other large projects Lorenco will be working on include repairs to the historic wharves, and the needs of the aging population. “We need to make sure we are providing adequate services to our seniors,” he said, alluding to his work in his previous position as Assistant Town Administrator and Finance Director in the Town of Eastham.
Regarding the strong financial foundation the town currently enjoys, Lorenco said that it will be important to control debt and continue to put money aside for post-employment benefits known as OPEB obligations.
Lorenco said the first few months would be spent working closely with former Town Administrator Mike Gagne, who will be staying on as the two formulate a transition strategy. “He’ll be staying on through town meeting,” he said of Gagne’s assistance. “He built the budget, he worked with the boards, he needs to see things through to the end.”
Looking ahead, Lorenco wants to assure the townspeople that he is up to the tasks at hand.
“I can do this job,” he said, pointing to his experience planning and executing large budgets including multi-million-dollar capital projects and his investment into the health and well-being of the community’s tax dollars is upper most in his mind. “It’s important to be transparent. The taxpayers’ dollars are my responsibility… people expect you to do more with less.”
Lorenco is a 2004 graduate of Old Rochester Regional High School and attended both Center and Old Hammondtown schools. During his interview process, Lorenco shared that he holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bentley College in corporate finance and a Master’s in Public Administration from Suffolk University.
Lorenco wrote in his introductory letter that he had experience in municipal budgets, state public procurement regulations, organization and personnel management, as well as union negotiation and grievance processes. He also noted, “…I have vast personal knowledge of Mattapoisett, as it is my hometown for most of my life. For over 30 years my family called Mattapoisett home.”
On a personal note, while Lorenco is currently back at the family home, he will be looking for his own home soon. He moved in with family to avoid a long commute from a house he owns in Harwich. “I’ll be selling that house soon,” he said.
By Marilou Newell