NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

November 8, 2012

Mayor hires new chief of staff

Candidate's organization, polish impressed Kezer

By Mac Cerullo Staff Writer
Newburyport Daily News

---- — AMESBURY — The mayor’s office will soon be fully staffed for the first time in nearly half a year after Mayor Thatcher Kezer announced his selection for his new chief of staff.

Eric Gregoire, a 23-year-old Ludlow resident who recently obtained a master’s degree in policy, planning and administration from Boston University, will take over as the mayor’s chief of staff. Gregoire will succeed Jennifer Hart Yim, who served as chief of staff for 18 months before resigning in mid-June to spend more time with her family.

Despite his young age and relative lack of professional experience, Gregoire beat out the far more experienced William Haberland of Gloucester for the job, along with four other semifinalists who interviewed over the past several months. Kezer said he chose Gregoire because he was impressed by how organized and polished he was.

“He’s sharp, very sharp,” Kezer said. “He was very organized during the interviews and then in the assessment, and it was impressive how succinct his responses were and his ability to communicate.”

For the past few years, Gregoire has been seen as one of the top student politicians in the state. While an undergrad at Fitchburg State University, he served as the Student Government Association Executive Board’s president, along with a whole host of other high-ranking student government roles, and graduated cum laude with distinction as a Commonwealth Scholar and a degree in political science.

He is also a voting member of his hometown of Ludlow’s Town Meeting, and has worked as a political consulting intern for Fitchburg State’s Regional Economic Development Institute, for Akerman Senterfitt LLP and for the BU Office of Judicial Affairs. He was also named one of the “29 Who Shine” award recipients by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2011.

Kezer said the two have a verbal agreement in place and he is still waiting for the signed letter back from Gregoire before the hire can become official. He wouldn’t comment on how much Gregoire would earn annually until after that happens.

As chief of staff, Gregoire will be primarily responsible for helping develop and implement city initiatives, advising on policy matters and supporting day-to-day municipal operations.

Gregoire will also work to make sure the city’s policies and procedures conform to the mayor’s goals, serve as a liaison to constituent groups, participate in the annual budget development process and function as a communication and media relations specialist for the mayor, according to the job description posted on the city’s website.

Gregoire said he was thrilled when Kezer offered him the job, and said he is excited for the opportunity to serve the city of Amesbury.

“(Amesbury) reminds me a lot of the place I grew up and the places I’ve spent a lot of time in,” Gregoire said. “Everyone’s been very welcoming and encouraging through the process, and it’s given me something to look forward to.”

Since Yim’s resignation, both Kezer and administrative assistant Allison Heartquist have seen their workloads increase substantially. Kezer once compared his office to a three-legged stool and said being without a chief of staff was like trying to balance the stool on two legs.

“We’ve had to focus on the essential activities of the office, and bringing Eric on board allows us to move forward on a number of projects and initiatives,” Kezer said.

Gregoire said he is looking forward to helping Amesbury work through many of the issues it faces, and cited his communication skills and willingness to tackle complex problems as two big strengths that he will bring to the role.

“My biggest strength is not being afraid to tackle different problems, to communicate what those issues will be and to get people together to solve those issues,” Gregoire said.

Gregoire is tentatively slated to start Tuesday, but Kezer said it could be longer depending on how long it takes Gregoire to find a place in the area to live.

“Ludlow is too far away to commute,” he said.