HAMILTON — Hamilton's first town manager seems to be working out.

Selectmen gave a mostly positive performance review of Michael Lombardo last night for his first year on the job.

On a scale of one to five, the five-member board graded Lombardo mostly with threes, fours and fives.

He received the highest praise for his negotiation skills with town unions, many of which had gone without contracts for several years after past negotiations stalled.

Jokingly, Selectman Bill Bowler said the effort was deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize.

"You've done an excellent job," Bowler said to Lombardo. "We knew part of what we were doing was to hire someone to change the culture (of Hamilton). There's been some bumps and bruises, but overall I think we're headed in the right direction."

Board members also praised Lombardo, who came from out of state, for quickly learning Massachusetts General Laws.

Selectmen had each met with Lombardo individually to go over their evaluations of him; last night was the first time all five members heard each other's reviews. Lombardo also received praise for his work on the budget, collaboration with town leaders in Wenham and employee management.

Selectman Jennifer Scuteri, board chairwoman, said she'd like to see Lombardo take a more active role in meetings, now that he's had a year to get his bearings.

"Sometimes, I think you're a little too reactive," said Scuteri.

Selectman David Carey suggested Lombardo start to do more "big picture" long-term planning, understanding it wouldn't have taken priority in his first year. Selectman Jeff Stinson agreed, and encouraged Lombardo to work on the town's master plan.

"How can you do big picture until you get all the trains running on time?" said Carey.

"This next year will be an action year," said Selectman Marc Johnson. "You'll start to put your own stamp on things."

Scuteri and Bowler also mentioned they've gotten feedback that Lombardo can be curt when talking with residents. But sometimes Lombardo's frankness is deserved, they agreed.

"I can be direct," said Lombardo. "I freely admit there are only so many hours in the day. ... The fact that I don't walk on water is pretty apparent."

Lombardo began as Hamilton's first town manager in April 2010, succeeding Town Administrator Candace Wheeler. Wheeler had worked for the town for more than 30 years and chose not to apply for the newly created position of town manager; she left in the summer of 2010.

In 2010, Lombardo made $100,406, which included an allowance to cover moving expenses and the use of his car for work.

Lombardo came to Hamilton from Iowa City, Iowa, where he was city manager for just 11 months before being prematurely terminated by the city council in an executive session.

Staff writer Bethany Bray can be reached at bbray@salemnews.com and on Twitter @SNewsBethany.

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