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Khumalo says farewell after 15 years; Lazarus sworn in as interim town manager

by | Apr 17, 2024 | Featured: News, News

Norman Khumalo

Outgoing Town Manager Norman Khumalo receives a Boston Marathon-themed gift from Select Board chair Muriel Kramer. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

Norman Khumalo on Tuesday night ended his 15-year role as Hopkinton’s town manager as the Select Board voted to appoint Assistant Town Manager Elaine Lazarus to serve as the interim town manager.

Board and community members reflected on Khumalo’s tenure and contributions, noting that he fostered the ideal of inclusivity while encouraging Hopkinton’s dynamic growth.

It was an emotional night, as Khumalo’s recognition was preceded by a moment of silence in memory of Destini Decoff. The 26-year-old woman died April 6 after sustaining serious injuries two days prior in what authorities described as an apparent road rage incident. There also were moments of joy as attendees celebrated the success of the Boston Marathon the previous day, the centennial of its starting in Hopkinton.

“He has shepherded this town through tremendous growth and challenges” said chair Muriel Kramer, “and notably helped develop Hopkinton’s town government in many, many important ways.”

She highlighted Khumalo’s bolstering of the town’s financial processes, leading to Hopkinton’s AAA bond rating, the highest rating awarded by Standard and Poor’s. The town’s stabilization and free cash funds have remained flush despite recent economic challenges.

“I just can’t thank him enough for his leadership,” added member Mary Jo LaFreniere. She noted that he was always available to answer questions and offer advice.

Member Amy Ritterbusch described Khumalo as “a tough act to follow” and a role model to which his future successors will be compared. She stressed his work with civic groups and nonprofits. Khumalo’s assistance in helping Project Just Because move to its current location on South Street was one example of his facilitating the success of community endeavors.

Member Irfan Nasrullah focused on Khumalo’s modesty and team-building skills.

Said Nasrullah: “You’ve taken this town through a period of incredible growth and approached everything with calmness and humility while taking on new initiatives throughout the way.”

Added vice chair Shahidul Mannan: “We could speak hours about Norman’s hard work and contribution and dedication to our town. You are now part of the history of our town.”

“The amount of time that you put into this town and your heart and soul at the sacrifice of your family does not go unnoticed with me,” said former member Brendan Tedstone, also calling Khumalo “a massive calming force.”

The board presented Khumalo with flowers for his wife as well as one of the pieces of art from the Winged Foot exhibit on the Town Common. With the help of about 100 preschool students, the artists created this piece for the Boston Marathon to celebrate inclusivity.

“After 15 years, my time in Hopkinton — an exceptional community — is ending,” an emotional Khumalo told the Select Board. The native of Zimbabwe stressed that the community made him and his family feel welcome in Hopkinton from the start.

“I am grateful for the opportunity that you gave me to be one of you as your town manager,” he continued. “Your success as a community has been and will continue to be my blessing.”

Elaine Lazarus

Elaine Lazarus is sworn in as interim town manager by Town Clerk Connor Degan. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

Later in the meeting, Lazarus was sworn in by Town Clerk Connor Degan as the interim town manager after receiving a unanimous vote of approval from the board.

“I’m honored and grateful and excited,” said Lazarus. “I look forward to serving the town in this new role.”

She complimented the town’s “wonderful team of professionals” in town government and who serve on boards and committees as she accepted the position.

“You have been stalwart, professional, reliable and consistent,” Kramer told Lazarus.

In her first official act, Lazarus updated the board on the status of key town vacancies. The deputy police chief position posting closed on Monday. Resumes are being reviewed. Qualified candidates will be given essay questions to answer by April 20. Those who advance will be granted oral interviews with the screening committee and tested at the assessment center tentatively on May 25. The final interview with the Select Board will follow shortly thereafter.

A committee is being assembled to assess the candidates for the deputy fire chief position. The position is expected to be posted shortly, according to Lazarus.

The town manager position has been posted. The due date for resumes and cover letters is May 6. A search committee is being formulated, according to Human Resources Director Jessica Lewerenz.

At this meeting, the board unanimously approved the hiring of Melissa Menard as the head chef for senior services, Jessica Dyment as the young adult librarian and Antonio “Tony” Garcia as a custodial maintenance worker.

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