Retiring Sullivan reflects on Medfield career

By Robby McKittrick
Hometown Weekly Reporter

After 44 years as the Medfield Town Administrator, Mike Sullivan has finally decided to call it quits in January.

The longtime administrator has had a long, fulfilling career, but he felt that this was the right time to retire.

“I was 28 when I started, and I will be turning 73 in March, so I certainly have put in my time, and it’s time to turn over to a younger, more technologically-able generation,” Sullivan said. “With social media and all of this stuff, it’s getting a little more technologically oriented, and I think it needs a new generation.”

Although Sullivan is ready to retire, he did say that it will be odd not working anymore.

“It’s going to be a learning experience,” he explained. “It’s going to be a strange day of reckoning when I wake up in the morning in mid-January and don’t have to go to work.”

Sullivan is initially from Fall River, and he went to college and received his Master’s from the University of Pennsylvania. Then, after six years of working in Arlington, he accepted a town administrator role in Medfield, moved to Medfield, and never left.

“They asked me to apply for the job,” he reflected. “They had a round of interviews and couldn’t find a candidate that they thought would work out … It was time to test my wings, so I applied for the job. Nobody [in my area] had ever heard of Medfield.”

Sullivan’s job consisted of dealing with a variety of issues in town on a regular basis, such as maintaining different buildings or helping out with a water issue.

“Your typical day is you come in with plans to do certain things and get them off your desk, and you go home at the end of the day and you haven’t done one of them,” he joked. “You just never know what people are going to be calling in about, what issues are going to come up.”

Most recently, Sullivan helped deal with a public safety issue related to a car crash, an overdose case near the town hall, and a snowstorm that was heavier than anticipated.

“It’s the preparations to make sure everything is in place so that those decisions can be made,” he said. “We are lucky that we have a great group of department heads that work together.”

One of the positive, but challenging things about Sullivan’s job was that there was a new issue to solve every day.

“It’s always different,” he said. “You don’t know what you’re going to be faced with when you come into [the office] in the morning.”

In addition to the unexpected nature of his job, Sullivan also said that he loved the relationships he built in the community.

“I like the people I work with, [and] I like the attitude of the town,” he said. “The community is really good when there is a need, when someone is in trouble, [and] when there is a crisis.”

Sullivan also explained that staying in Medfield for a long time was key for him to “gain the trust of the people.”

“You have to stay long enough to get the trust of the people so you can do things that need to be done,” he said. “People switch jobs so often that they really don’t build a trust relationship with people they are working for.”

Sullivan reflected back to when he first started in Medfield and what they have accomplished over his 44 years, such as preserving the land and maintaining the main streets.

“It was a world of difference,” he said. “it’s amazing how many things have been done … We have a quality of life here that I think I have contributed to and helped make possible.”

Sullivan also noted that the downtown area has improved immensely over the years.

“It used to be called Deadfield,” he joked. “It’s really kind of flourished. I can’t think of an empty storefront in Medfield right now.”

Overall, Sullivan has had a great time working in Medfield and will remember his time fondly.

“They say Medfield is a special community, and I think in some ways it is,” he said. “People step up to the plate [here] … I just hope Medfield is able to keep its small-town flavor.”

“The attractive thing about New England is that it has small towns and that it has open space,” he added. “I hope we don’t lose that quality, [which] has been attractive to not just Medfield, but to New England.”

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