By PETE DELEA
Daily News-Record 3/21/19
DAYTON — After more than two years on the sidelines, Joe Paxton returned to action in local government this year.
Dayton Town Council tapped the retired Rockingham County administrator as interim town manager on Jan. 24. He will lead the town until a replacement can be found for Bobby Popowicz, who resigned in early January.
Paxton, who has been working with a local government consulting firm, The Berkley Group, said returning to the office was seamless.
“I’ve kept up with what’s going on,” he said. “I’ve stayed in contact with people in the field since I retired.”
Paxton went to work for the county as an intern to former Administrator William O’Brien, his predecessor, in January 1978. Coincidentally, O’Brien also served as interim town manager in Dayton after retirement.
Throughout the next two decades, Paxton climbed the ranks to serve as purchasing and accounting officer, finance director, assistant county administrator and deputy county administrator.
He became the county’s top unelected official in 2004, taking over for O’Brien, who held the job for 26 years.
Paxton retired in July 2016.
In January, Paxton received a call from Dayton council members seeking his help to bridge the gap until a town manager was found.
Mayor Sam Lee said the council’s personnel committee reached out to the Bridgewater-based Berkley Group about Paxton’s availability.
“He’s an icon in the county,” Lee said. “Joe Paxton has been in government for a long time. It didn’t take us long to figure out who we wanted.”
Paxton said he gladly accepted.
“Anytime someone calls you and tells you you did a great job and they want you, it’s an honor,” he said, adding that he will enjoy spending
his days in Dayton. “Just like any part of the county. It’s a great place to live … a great place to raise a family. It’s got a lot to offer.”
Until a new town manager is found, Paxton will work three days a week.
One of the major tasks Paxton will oversee is the planning and construction of the town’s greenway.
The first phase connects Cooks Creek Park in northern Dayton to Silver Lake Mill in Rockingham County. It’s set to open April 26.
Future plans include connecting Cooks Creek Park with the Thomas House and the Thomas House with Sunset Park and the Dayton Market.
While Paxton keeps the town running smooth, The Berkley Group will lead the search for a new town manager.
Paxton, who will help in the search process, said the group will begin looking over applications during the first week of April.
He said the group hopes to begin council interviews in late April or early May and have the position filled by late May or early June.
While he’s enjoying the part-time gig, Paxton said he doesn’t want the job full time.
“I appreciate the opportunity to be here on the short-term basis,” he said, “but I have a lot of things we want to do family wise.”