Flanagan’s on the move – Winthrop native rises quickly through the ranks of town government

At 25 years old and just six years removed from his senior year at Winthrop High School, one could certainly make the case that Winthrop native son Andrew Flanagan has made an impressive jump from intern to top administrator and policy director.

Flanagan recently took over as Director of Policy and Administration in the city of Newburyport, after an 18-month stint at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and three years working in the office of former Town Manager Rick White.

However, Flanagan’s fast rise is largely due to his own hard work and his ability to take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves.

“I had a plan where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, but I also had the good fortune of working for some very good people and I got to learn a lot in a short amount of time,” explained Flanagan of his new responsibilities. “I always knew I wanted a career in public service and municipal government is where the rubber meets the road, in terms of being able to impact people’s everyday lives, more so than state or federal government.”

Flanagan, who is the son of local fire chief Paul Flanagan, certainly comes by his devotion to public service honestly enough. His father is the current chief of the department and his grandfather was also a fire chief, he also has an uncle in the department as well.

“You know people have asked me why I didn’t follow in the family business and become a firefighter, and I’d be lying if I said I never thought about it, but my father encouraged me to find my own career,” he explained. “I certainly think there is great value and reward in what my dad and my family have done, but I’m also interested in all of the components of what makes municipal government work and I decided to pursue a career where I could be involved in all of them.”

Following his graduation from Winthrop High School in 2004, Flanagan attended Stonehill College, where he majored in Public Administration. In 2006, he began an internship in then Town Manager White’s office, where he remained until September 2008, when he left to work for MAPC.

“Once I graduated from Stonehill, I moved from being the intern to being the Assistant to the Town Manager,” he explained.

Following his graduation from Stonehill, Flanagan was accepted into the Masters in Public Administration program at Northeastern University. He is on pace to complete his degree in fall 2011 and is currently working on his Master’s thesis.

But it was his first job, at Winthrop’s Woodside Hardware, that he credits with helping him to develop his work ethic.

“The thing I remember most about Andrew was his self-confidence and his ability to communicate effectively,” explained Woodside General Manager Paul Leavy. “He always had the ability to talk and interact with customers and his fellow employees in a way that made them feel that he was much older than he was.”

Leavy noted that Flanagan was young when he first started working at Woodside and did go through some growing pains, but in the end, he said Flanagan’s respect for himself and others always shone through.

“He was a young kid when he started here and so I may have to give him a nudge or a push at times, but Andrew always had that smile on his face and he never once came back at me or was disrespectful,” added Leavy. “I’m very proud of him and how far he has come and I’m glad that we might’ve played a small part in the successes he’s having now.”

Winthrop Finance Director Michael Bertino remembers the young Flanagan as an intelligent, likeable young man who has a good head on his shoulders.

“To me, he understands how municipal government works and how to succeed in this business,” said Bertino. “I think he’s also benefited from the fact that he knew what he wanted to do at a young age.”

Bertino said he is not surprised at all at how quickly Flanagan has risen to such a prominent position in a municipal administration.

“I think now that they’ve given him an opportunity, they’re going to be very happy with their choice,” said Bertino. “The Andrew I know will surpass all of their expectations for him.”

From talking to Mayor Donna Holaday in Newburyport, one gets the impression that they have already begun to realize that up there.

“He’s been doing a wonderful job,” said Mayor Holaday. “His work ethic and dedication to the job are incredible, he’s wise beyond his years and his level of knowledge, when it comes to municipal government is a credit to Rick White, who trained him, and also to MAPC.”

Holaday said that her instincts about him when she interviewed him have proven out.

“The way he relates to department heads is fantastic, he’s a solid writer and communicator and another thing that amazes me is the number of people he knows and the contacts he has,” said Holaday. “He’s just been a very good hire for us.”

For his part, Flanagan remains somewhat grounded in his surroundings.

“As I said I’ve had a chance to learn from a lot of very knowledgeable and talented people, and my time at MAPC was invaluable in giving me exposure to what goes on in the 101 cities and towns in the MAPC region. The opportunity to come to Newburyport was a chance for me to get back to municipal government and do the kind of work I enjoy doing.”

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