Michael Caira has become famous in Wilmington for his long hours at Town Hall. But on Friday, his final day as Town Manager, he may call it a day a bit early by his standards.
“I’d say it’s finally sunk in. The office is pretty much cleaned out, so when I go in Friday I’ll be leaving the keys,” said Caira. “I think I’ll try to get out of there before it gets too dark.”
More than 430 residents, family and friends showed up to honor Caira’s retirement on Thursday night at the Wyndham Hotel in Andover. Speakers told stories about, and took playful jabs at, Caira during the evening and made the message clear about just how much he will be missed.
Fire Chief Ed Bradbury’s relationship with Caira began in 1993, when the two sat on opposite sides of the negotiating table as Bradbury served as the Firefighters Union president.
“I learned a lot from him as a mentor how to handle some of the more delicate situations. In that respect I consider him a friend, which is quite the tranformation from where we started,” said Bradbury. “I hate to see him go because we worked very well together. His commitment to the Fire Departemnt was exceptional, and it really made a difference.”
Similarly, Police Lt. Joe Desmond negotiated five contracts with Caira. Desmond said those contract talks were never easy, but he knew Caira had the town’s best interests in mind when negotiating.
“There’s big piece of Wilmington that will obviously be missing,” said Desmond. “He treated the taxpayers’ money as if it was his own. That makes for long negotiations, but we’ve never had a layoff in the Police Department in the 25 years I’ve been here. While a lot of towns around us have been having layoffs, we’ve been able to survive that and a lot it has to do with Mike.”
Lou Cimaglia also spoke glowingly about Wilmington’s outgoing Town Manager.
It was Caira who hired Cimaglia seven years ago to serve as the Veteran’s Agent, and opportunity Cimaglia is still grateful for.
“With over 430 people here tonight, it shows the respect he has from the town,” said Cimaglia. “Everything that has to do with the town, he’s been there. He’s such a passionate man who love Wilmington so much, and it’s really shown over the last quarter century.”
Police Chief Michael Begonis said the key to Caira’s success has been the respect he has for the process, citizens and the town’s employees.
“He’s been more of a mentor and friend than a boss in a lot of ways,” said Begonis. “If you followed him and his work ethic, you would be guaranteed success. When it comes to integrity, I couldn’t think of anyone who had more. He always pushed to make us better as employees.”
Caira called it “heartwarming” to see how many people came out to show their gratitude for his decades of service to the town.
Though he has more than 20 years of memories from his tenure as Town Manager, Caira said it is easy to pinpoint what stands out to him the most from his service in Wilmington.
“It’s the way the people in Wilmington responde in times of need,” said Caira. “I remember so many different occasions when they’ve come together to support each other, and that’s what I’ll be left with. It’s not so much about being Town Manager, but being a resident of the town that was most important to me. Being the Town Manager was just the icing on the cake.”