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A Day in the Life: Richard Branigan, North Branford Town Manager

North Branford Town Manager Richard V. Branigan takes a quick break from his busy schedule to tell Patch readers all about what it takes to help successfully run a town.

North Branford Patch: How long have you been working in North Branford?

Richard V. Branigan: I've been here about three and a half years. There was an opportunity about four years ago when the former Town Manager left for another position in the state and the position opened up and some folks approached me and asked whether or not I was interested and should apply, which I did, and the Town Council at the time selected me and I'm honored to be here. It's a privilege.

North Branford Patch: How did you get involved in municipal government?

Branigan: That goes back about 30 years. My undergraduate degree in political science and public administration from Providence College. Out of undergraduate, there weren't a lot of jobs in the late '70s so I went back to graduate school almost immediately and got my masters degree in public administration. Then I was fortunate enough to be selected by the city of White Plains as part of their management training program. Once I got into that, that started my career and I've been in municipal government ever since.

North Branford Patch: Have you considered another role in the government other than Town Manager?

Branigan: This is a unique role because I'm involved with just about everything in the town in one way or another. There are days when it's a little bit daunting and there are other days when it's very exciting. It keeps your interest because there's always something new coming through the door so I don't know that I could get that any place else or any other role in local government. This is kind of like the top of the peak for me when it comes to that. I'm very happy to have these responsibilities.

North Branford Patch: Describe a day in the life of a Town Manager.

Branigan: I wake up usually between 6:30 or something in that range and by the time I get my stuff together at home, more often than not, there's already been a phone call or an e-mail or a series of them that come in overnight that I have to follow up on from the night before. Usually I'm on the phone when I'm driving into work, checking on what went on the night before or conferring with someone about what's going to happen today.

The nice thing about doing this job in the year 2011 is that we're only a Blackberry away from our computers and it's just so much easier to stay in touch and not have to rush back to the office on a Sunday afternoon to check e-mail or something like that. I can go anywhere else in the world and stay in touch with the job. On the one hand, it makes it a little easier to do, on the other hand, I'm always tied to the phone.

Branigan: Once I get here [] in the morning, after I get a cup of coffee under my belt, I usually make a round of the offices just to see where everyone is. Things are always calm, this is a very professional building. We're fortunate enough to have staff that know their roles and when the public comes in here, they're well treated and the people answering their questions know what they're talking about.

It's really about saying 'good morning' to everyone, making sure everyone knows who's where, kind of a courtesy thing. Then once we get into the day, it's usually a follow-up from the day before, what was pending, what meetings happened the night before that I need to know about. Then we get into whatever meetings are scheduled for today. Today's agenda includes the  so I will spend a good deal of my day today getting ready for tonight's meeting and assembling what I need to present to the council, following up with the them and trying to anticipate if there's been any recent developments. And tomorrow, there will be another list–it kind of rolls along.

North Branford Patch: What have been the most daunting experiences for you as North Branford's Town Manager?

Branigan: I'd say 2011 has been a particular challenge. I wouldn't say it's one event, I think it's the and the and the all in one year, it's a lot. I'm very fortunate and blessed to have folks around me here who really know what they're doing and take their jobs seriously and do them really, really well. When we go through a snowstorm, I know that our Public Works crew and director will have the roads down to bare pavement faster than anyone else around. I know that I don't have to worry about that. My job is to help him do that, not give him advice. He knows what he's doing and he does it better than I could ever do it. When you have folks who you can trust like that, it makes a big difference.

And we have a Town Council that realizes we need to put safety first. Those challenges–it's been a long year from that perspective, but we've been able to overcome those challenges and we've already started getting As the chief executive, there are some decisions that I have to make alone, but by and large, there's a team in place. We've got folks like our Emergency Management Director on the job who makes my like just so much easier.

North Branford Patch: What's the most enjoyable aspect of your job?

Branigan: Having an opportunity to provide professional service, which is what you're trained to do, what you're career is, what you aspire to, having the ability to do that day in and day out for a great community. I grew up in the area, I've always known of North Branford and that it's a community that cares a lot for each other and is hard-working. It's very refreshing.

There are not a lot days where someone's not stepping up to do something for somebody else. And it's not always with their hand out for themselves. People are asking for assistance for themselves, but also asking what they can do in return, what can they do to help their fellow residents. We saw a lot of that during the snowstorm, we saw a lot of community support. People here are willing to give back and you see that all over town. That makes our job much easier and you get excited about opportunities to put people together and facilities that help foster that even more.

North Branford Patch: What are some of your methods of organization that keep you on top of all of the town's affairs?

Branigan: That's always a work in progress. In my career I think I've gone through about a hundred different systems. One of the things that helps is to have an executive secretary who can help me manage the paper flow, the in basket and the out basket. I'm not really overly reliant on the computer to do task management. It's more physical, I want to see it in front of me so I have a simple calendar system that I learned of 20 years ago that still works today where, if something needs to be followed up on in a week, I put it onto that week's date and it comes to my desk first thing that morning so there's no last-minute searching. It's pretty basic.

North Branford Patch: What do you like to do when you're not managing North Branford?

Branigan: We do a lot of volunteer work. There's an organization called Kids for Kids, Dancing for Life that was started in 1994 and I've been president for the last 10 years or so. It's based in this area, North Haven, North Branford. A lot of our board members are from town so we have a strong comittment to the community. We raise money for sick and needy children and we have several events that we run throughout the year. Each takes a good deal of planning, some more than others, and we typically end up giving grants or donations to other charities, somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000 a year. So it requires some oversight. There are several families that do it, five or six different families that are all part of this board. It's all volunteer, no one gets paid and that's really where our passion is. I'm fortunate enough to say that our board members also include people who have grown up in the organization, my three daughters are included in that, two that are on this coast and one on the west coast.

North Branford Patch: Do you see yourself here in the next 10 to 20 years like ?

Branigan: Joanne Wentworth is an institution, an icon in the community. She has just been doing things for this community for so long and so well, I don't know that anyone would aspire to that record. I don't think that anyone could compete with that because I don't see an end in sight. She can be here as long as she wants to be here. To aspire to something like that is kind of way out there, but I'd like to think that I can be here as long as I provide a valuable service to the community and that's a day to day thing you try to maintain and do a little better the next day.

I'm fortunate that the mayor and Town Council have been supportive of me and continue to be. Working for nine individuals who are the chief elected officials of the town is really an honor and trying to stay ahead of their expectations is always a challenge, but I think I'm doing okay with that. They're not shy, they tell me when they're not happy, so with that communication in mind and with some bigger projects coming up, I don't know the answer to the question. But I want to be here as long as I am of value to the community and that could be for a long time to come.

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