Scott Lambiase’s journey to becoming Abington’s newest Town Manager actually started, of all places, in Abington.
Lambiase owned a construction company and was building a front porch in Abington. He needed the building inspector to sign off on the footings, but the town’s inspector had recently left.
“It was very difficult because they only had a part-time, fill-in building inspector,” Lambiase remembered.
But that vacancy got Lambiase thinking. He started the state-required training and certification process required to become a building inspector and even interviewed for the open Abington position. He didn’t get it — “I wasn’t really ready for anything,” he acknowledges now — but he was hired as a part-time building inspector in Duxbury in August 2005.
Today, Lambiase is finally reporting to work at Abington Town Hall; this time as Town Manager, after spending 15 years in Duxbury advancing up the ranks to eventually become that community’s Director of Municipal Services.
“I believe he’ll be a very good town manager, and do a very good job for the town,” said Abington Board of Selectmen Chairman Tom Connolly. “And I think he may be here for awhile.”
The town’s outgoing town manager, Rick LaFond, has agreed to stay on for the week in a consulting role to help Lambiase with the transition.
Lambiase’s start date couldn’t come at a more challenging time for a public administrator. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced municipal governments to fundamentally alter the way it delivers services and interacts with the public. It means the inaugural community meet-and-greets, board introductions, and department head one-on-ones that a new town manager would typically schedule are all on hold.
“I’m comfortable sitting across from a conference table, 8 feet apart with masks on,” Lambiase said. “But the fact I’m starting in an awkward way is something I’m very cognizant of. We’re just going to work through it. Everyone’s going to have a clean slate on Day One and I’m going to do everything I can to earn their trust and respect.”
One of Lambiase’s first tasks is going to be reviewing the town’s budget, which appeared to be balanced and near finalized a few weeks ago, but has since been thrown into uncertainty with two months to go before the new fiscal year starts on July 1. Like every other municipal executive in Massachusetts, Lambiase will have to quickly determine how much the global economic slowdown will impact local revenue projections (specifically meals and excise taxes), while also waiting anxiously for news from Beacon Hill on possible cuts to local aid.
Lambiase said Duxbury, where he managed a multi-million dollar department budget, and Whitman, where he is a member of the town’s Finance Committee, are both preparing to reduce their initial budget projections between 8 to 10 percent. The Abington Finance Committee is also readying for a possible 10 percent revenue cut.
“I’m going to sit down with every individual department head, see what we can do to get through this, and understand what it’s going to do to town services,” Lambiase said.
Lambiase, 54, grew up in Weymouth, graduating from Weymouth North High School in 1983. His family owned and operated Weymouth’s Boston Motel, as well as the adjacent restaurant and lounge. His family sold the property about 20 years ago, but working in the family business helped him start a small residential and commercial contracting company.
That business background came in handy when he started to expand his inspectional role in Duxbury. First, he helped create a procurement department to consolidate all of the town’s purchasing. Then he started overseeing the town’s capital projects, including a new police station, an addition on the fire station, and a multi-million dollar overhaul of the town’s indoor pool.
Eventually his department also picked up most of the town’s licensing operations, such as shellfish, liquor licenses, special one-day permits, the zoning board of appeals, and the town’s $1 million beach sticker operation.
“Between 2010 and 2015 the department kept growing,” Lambiase said. “We took on everything that wasn’t already assigned somewhere else.”
The theory behind the department’s growth was finding ways to better serve the public, he said.
“Ultimately we’re a public service corporation,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re giving the public what they’re paying for. And that we’re doing it in a fiscally reasonable and reasonable way. And by the same token, we give them the highest level of service they can get.”
During seven of those years, Lambiase was also a selectmen in Whitman, where he’s lived for two decades.
Randy Lamattina, who served on the Whitman board for two years with Lambiase, described him as “extremely knowledgeable” in town governance and budgeting.
“His decision making process was always fair, impartial and grounded in law, statute, policies and procedures or any applicable By-laws,” he said. “Abington is very lucky to have [him] coming aboard.”
Lambiase, who has two teenage children, said he’s been influenced by Duxbury’s last two town managers, Richard MacDonald, who retired in 2013, and his successor, Rene Read.
“They taught me you have to be fair with everyone, but you also have to make the decisions,” said Lambiase. “You can’t put stuff off. You can’t not make a decision.”
The Abington Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to offer Lambiase the town manager position on April 6 after interviewing four finalists. He will earn $132,000 annually, and be eligible for an annual raise of up to 2 percent if selectmen rate his performance outstanding or proficient. However, the contract was approved last week by just a 3-2 margin as selectmen Ken Coyle and Kevin DiMarzio voiced concerns that Lambiase lacks a bachelor’s degree, which is a requirement under the town charter. To workaround the problem, Lambiase will hold the title of acting town manager until he does complete the degree.
Lambiase said he had earned about 92 credits toward his degree from Northeastern University but hadn’t completed his coursework. He said he is now scheduled to earn his degree in business administration from Western Governors University in September.
Board of Selectmen Vice-Chairman Tim Chapin said he felt Lambiase was clearly the best choice to become Abignton’s town manager.
“His years of experience and loyalty to the towns of Whitman and Duxbury are what I believe he will bring to the Town of Abington,” he said.