Orleans, State Officials Bid Farewell To John Kelly

By: Ryan Bray

Topics: Orleans news , town administrator , local government

John Kelly retires Dec. 30 after 26 years as town administrator in Orleans. FILE PHOTO

ORLEANS – How do you measure a 26-year career? For Lynn Bruneau, chair emeritus of the finance committee, there are plenty of ways to gauge John Kelly's tenure as town administrator.

Hired to the post in Nov. 1996, Kelly participated in his final select board meeting on Dec. 21. His last day in town hall before his retirement is Dec. 30.

Speaking to the select board last week, Bruneau noted that when Kelly was hired, the town had a "fence viewer" as well as a keeper of the town pump. There was also a committee charged with studying the feasibility of a town golf course, as well as a summer trolley committee.

The political makeup of the town, meanwhile, changed markedly over the course of Kelly's time as town administrator. Citing annual town reports, Bruneau noted that in 1997, there were 887 registered democrats and 1,513 registered republicans in town. Fast forward to today, and there are 1,497 democrats and 821 republicans registered in Orleans.

"We've done a real flip from 26 years ago," she said.

Bruneau also spoke for what she called "the ghosts of finance committees past," naming a list of people who have served on the committee over the course of Kelly's tenure.

But select board members, as well as state legislators, said Dec. 21 that Kelly's run as town administrator is notable not only for its length, but also for its quality.

"You've not only worked here, but you've lived here and done so much good for this community," said Select Board member Kevin Galligan, who recalls working with Kelly since his hiring 26 years ago.

Kelly, who attended the meeting virtually by Zoom, was honored with citations from the state House of Representatives and the state Senate recognizing his time in service to the residents of Orleans.

"The entire membership...extends its very best wishes and expresses the hope for your future good fortune and continued success in all of your endeavors," said State Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, who read from the house citation virtually during the Dec. 21 meeting.

Peake said she came to rely on Kelly as a source and sounding board on a number of local and state issues, and recalled their close working relationship on several matters, including what she jokingly referred to as "the wastewater wars."

"It takes a special kind of person to be a public servant for that many years, and each and every day bring your positive attitude, to bring your great work ethic and do this work for the town of Orleans," Peake said. "All of us, certainly on the Outer and Lower Cape, and all across the Commonwealth, benefit from that."

State Senator Julian Cyr [D-Truro] also joined last week's meeting remotely to pay tribute to Kelly's time in Orleans.

"You have had a remarkable, remarkable career in public service," he said. "On behalf of not only the people of Orleans but across the Lower Cape, just thank you for everything you've done and you'll be doing."

The select board has tapped Charles Sumner, an experienced town administrator who managed the town of Brewster for 29 years, to serve as interim town administrator while a search committee and consultant work to identify candidates for the administrator (soon to be retitled town manager) post full time. Sumner, who has also served interim stints in Provincetown and Wellfleet, will serve in the interim job in Orleans through April 1.

As for Kelly, town and state officials implored him to relax and enjoy himself after a job well done.

"You're not in the fishbowl anymore," Galligan said.

Others including Finance Committee Chair Nick Athanassiou acknowledged that retiring isn't for everybody, and wished Kelly well should he continue to explore other opportunities elsewhere.

"So good luck with whatever you want to do, and thanks for all your good work here," he said.

Kelly thanked those who spoke for their comments. The select board closed the Dec. 21 session with a round of applause in recognition of his work in town.

Email Ryan Bray at ryan@capecodchronicle.com