SHIRLEY -- Selectman Chairman Armand Deveau has resigned, effective as of the May 10 Town Election.
He may not have accomplished every goal he set for himself when elected for the first time five years ago, Deveau told the Shirley Oracle on Tuesday, and if he made mistakes, he learned from them.
But he noted with pride the committees he created and campaign promises he fulfilled. "I can leave with my head held high," he said.
Deveau's letter of resignation went out to the Board of Selectmen, department heads and other town employees via e-mail Tuesday afternoon and he hand-delivered copies to the town clerk, Chief Administrative Officer David Berry and the selectmen's administrative assistant, Kathleen Rocco.
In the letter, which is also addressed to "the citizens of the Town of Shirley," Deveau explains his reasons. His resignation was part of a "life choice" he and his wife made, he said. Simply put, they're planning to move out of town.
After making the rounds with his letter, Deveau sat down with a reporter to talk about the cause and possible effects of his decision to step down.
The home Deveau built in Shirley several years ago and now shares with his wife has been up for sale for some time. Recently, the house went under agreement, and if the sale goes through, the Deveaus will be moving to Florida, where they have a second home. They've been spending most of the winter there for the last couple of years and plan to
Deveau, who operates his own construction firm locally, also plans to start a new business in Florida. Here and now, though, it's all about initiating an efficient transition.
He acknowledged there might be "speculation" that differences he's had with the other selectmen prompted his decision to quit. That is absolutely not why he's leaving, he said, and he wants the citizens of Shirley to know that.
Deveau has been odd man out on the three-member board for some time and has on occasion expressed frustration with the direction things seem to be headed in lately, particularly when they disagree on issues he feels passionately about.
But he's had some victories, too, over the past five years and has been able to fulfill campaign promises, he said, verbally replaying his peripatetic presentation at a candidate's forum, second time around, when he listed exploring alternative energy sources as a top priority, as well as spurring revenue through economic growth.
Accomplishments he cited include creating the Tax Collection Committee, which has thus far succeeded in recouping $700,000 in previously unpaid property taxes. Going forward, the collection process the committee came up with and the selectmen endorsed should ensure continued efficiency in the system, he said. In his view, that spells success.
Other successful efforts he spearheaded include Town Meeting acceptance of the state's "43D" provisions, identifying target sites for development and streamlining the permit process. Deveau also created the Economic Development Committee. Both were focused on planned growth and bringing in new revenue.
He also started the Energy Advisory Committee, which worked to get Shirley's "Green Community" designation and a $153,000 grant for energy-saving projects aimed at reducing costs and the town's carbon footprint. Good for the community and the planet, he said.
He's taken criticism for some of his stands, such as agreeing to backfill a substantial school department shortfall from reserve funds as a member of the Budget Committee, which grew out of the Deficit Committee he formed during a particularly difficult year.
Philosophically not a fan of using one-time revenue to shore up an operating budget, the local school district was hit hard by state cuts that year and needed the money, he said, especially with a regionalization agreement with Ayer in the offing.
He still feels it was the right thing to do, he said. As for the budget committee, now defunct, it helped lay the groundwork for a leadership team formed with the creation of the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District. Made up of municipal and school officials and financial team representatives from both member towns, the advisory group still meets several times during the school year to discuss issues of concern to both member towns.
On the flip side, the most recent flap Deveau found himself involved in was a majority move to oust CAO David Berry.
Deveau had earlier fallen out with his colleagues over the CAO's evaluation, which they wanted to conduct using the existing form created by the Personnel Board, while Deveau held out for an alternative evaluation form he created himself, tailored specifically for the new CAO position.
In the recent instance, Deveau objected when Selectman David Swain made a motion calling for Berry's resignation or, absent that, for the board to fire him.
Deveau voted against the motion, which passed, two to one. Not a high point, but he didn't resign because of it, he said.
The matter is expected to come up again at the next selectmen's meeting, Jan 28, but Deveau won't be there. He'll be in Florida, but that's no surprise to anyone, he said, since he made arrangements in advance and announced his plans in public. He'll be available to participate in meetings long-distance, if needed, he said.
Still a Shirley resident until the sale of his home is final and the move actually happens, why not stay on the board until then?
Because he wanted to orchestrate a timely transition.
Having approached Town Clerk Amy McDougall with a "what if" scenario, she gave him a February deadline date by which she'd need to know his seat would be vacated so the vacancy could be placed on the May Town Election ballot, Deveau said, thus avoiding the expense of holding a special election,
Besides, Deveau views his elected post as a job, like an executive position without the financial perks. It takes a great deal of time and effort to prepare for and carry out a selectman's duties, he said, and it's important to the town that someone else gets the chance to step up as soon as possible. "In effect, I'm giving a four-month notice," he said.
Contacted by a Sentinel & Enterprise reporter, Selectmen David Swain and Kendra Dumont commented on the news that their colleague had resigned.
Both said they were surprised.
Swain said he understood the motivation for the move. "He has been up front with us..." Swain said. "We will definitely miss him. He had a good perspective and always had the best interest of the people in mind."
Dumont said she was blind-sided by Deveau's resignation. She knew of his long-term plans to move and start a business in Florida, but she had no idea it would happen so soon. "I'm shocked," she said.
"He said he was willing to stay on until May if the board wants him to," Dumont said, and she hopes he will, just to make things easier in the long run.