By Julie Huss
---- — LONDONDERRY — The search for a new leader continues.
There are 54 applicants in the latest search for a new town manager.
The process was sidetracked a bit earlier this year when the top applicant chose to take a job elsewhere.
Town Council Chairman John Farrell said the search process is moving forward again.
“But the council has not received the applications from Human Resources yet,” Farrell said this week. “We are hoping to receive them this week.”
In the first search, 66 people had applied for the job, which has lacked a permanent person since June. Officials originally hoped to fill the position by April 1.
Town Councilor Tom Dolan said the town was ready to make that candidate an offer when officials learned the applicant had accepted another job.
By that time, the other top candidates had been notified they had not made the cut.
“This caught us by surprise,” Dolan said. “We had to restart the process.”
Police Chief and acting Town Manager William Hart said the setback was a bit frustrating.
“We feel strongly it really has to be the right fit,” he said.
Hart was named acting town manager last June, after longtime manager David Caron resigned.
Officials are happy with Hart staying at the helm until a new manager is chosen.
“Our saving grace is that Chief Hart has done an excellent job,” Dolan said. “We don’t feel like we’ve missed a beat.”
Dolan said having Hart as manager also gives the town time to do the best job in finding a new leader.
“We can be very deliberate in our selection,” he said. “We don’t want to make a quick decision. That is a good thing for the town.”
Human resources director Donna Pratt said the manager selection work begins once officials have the new applications in hand.
“Council will get the information this week and will then start reviewing,” she said.
Pratt said she would help during the review and hiring process. Councilors will narrow the list down to their top candidates and then do extensive interviews.
Farrell said the town hopes to have a new manager in place this summer.
“July 1 is our target date,” he said.
Officials will also consider the future of another job — fire chief — but are not looking just yet.
“We have not begun a search,” Farrell said.
Pratt said the fire chief’s job has not been advertised.
Until then, Battalion Chief Darren O’Brien continues to serve as the department’s interim chief. He replaced Chief Kevin MacCaffrie, who retired in March. O’Brien, 47, has served Londonderry’s fire department since he was 19.
Dolan said everyone is extremely happy with O’Brien’s work as acting chief, another example of having someone take the lead when there is an open position and doing it well.
Dolan said it would be best to have the new town manager in place before filling any other key management positions, including fire chief.
“He or she can then have an active role in the selection,” he said.
Both Hart and O’Brien are to be commended for their commitment during the transition, Dolan said.
“This is a tribute to the second team that has stepped up and kept things moving,” he said.