NORTHBOROUGH – Originally, John Coderre didn’t want to work in local government.
When he was in his second year of his graduate program at the University of Connecticut, his adviser called him into her office and told him he needed an internship to graduate. She had contacted Mansfield Town Manager Martin Berliner and said that Coderre would be there on Monday to talk about an internship.
Despite telling his adviser that he wanted to work at the state or federal level, not local, Coderre went to Mansfield and met with Berliner and the finance director.
“He said, ‘You seem like a pretty sharp guy. Local government needs good people,’” Coderre recalled.
This internship led to a career in local government, including the past 20 years in Northborough.
Coderre ended up working for Berliner for the rest of his time in graduate school. He later took a postgraduate job in Windsor, Conn., where he was exposed to all of the departments in local government.
As the year in Windsor came to an end, Coderre applied for two jobs — a legislative policy analyst for the legislature in Rhode Island and an assistant town administrator in Chelmsford. After he received an offer for both jobs and faced a proverbial fork in the road between a state or local government career, Coderre sought advice from Windsor Town Manager Al Ilg. Ilg ultimately persuaded him to pursue a career in local government over state.
“Both Marty Berliner and Al Ilg showed me something that really impacted me, and that was if you want to have a real, immediate impact and make a difference that you can see, local government is the place for you,” Coderre said.
After 14 years as town administrator, Coderre is saying goodbye to Northborough.
“I’m going to miss the people,” Coderre said. “This job is all about the people. Everything else serves the people, really.”
When he accepted the Chelmsford position, Coderre’s wife was working in the governor’s budget office in Rhode Island. The pair was looking to move to Massachusetts where they had family and more professional management opportunities.
“I didn’t know anything about [Northborough]. … We took out a map, and I said, ‘Well, honey, it looks like it’s one of these ‘boro’ places.’ … Because it’s the midpoint between her commute and my commute,” he recalled.
The Coderres got off the exit in Northborough. They saw a “for rent” sign for an apartment on Church Street and moved to town.
When their children were born, Coderre wanted to work closer to home. For five years, Coderre worked as assistant town administrator in Northborough. He was applying for town manager positions when then-administrator Brenner announced his plans to retire.
The Board of Selectmen said they would like Coderre to stay as town administrator — a position he held for 14 years until he recently became the town manager in Foxborough.
According to his resignation letter, throughout his tenure, the town increased its bond rating to the highest in the town’s history, reduced its debt levels increased its financial reserves and received over a decade of national distinguished budget awards.
The library was renovated, as was Lincoln Street Elementary School, and a new senior center was constructed.
Director of Public Works Scott Charpentier said that Coderre was on the list of town managers he’s worked with that he considered to be above exceptional. Finance Director Jason Little called Coderre an “extremely dedicated public official and a strong leader who had high expectations.”
“His contributions toward building a strong and stable foundation in Northborough will be felt for years to come,” said Little.
Recreation Director Allie Lane worked with Coderre for over 19 years.
“Throughout the years, John worked tirelessly for the community of Northborough,” Lane said. “His dedication to this town as a resident and an employee should be remembered for many years.”
John Coderre Day
Talking to other managers, Coderre said they regretted missing their kids growing up while they were out of town and attending night meetings.
“I never missed a single thing. One of the nicest things a child can ever tell you as an adult is, ‘You were always there. You never missed anything, and you were always there.’ Both of my kids have said that to me,” he recalled.
Coderre continued, “This job, I was working for a community that I loved, working for a Board of Selectmen that I respected and that respected me, and they respected professional management, and it allowed me to be the kind of father that I wanted to be and not miss out on my kids growing up.”
Now, his kids are in college, and it’s time for a new challenge.
“I think I’ve done well by Northborough, but a fresh set of eyes and a different perspective is a good thing,” Coderre said.
March 27, which was Coderre’s last Board of Selectmen meeting, was officially declared John Coderre Day by the board.
Chair Mitch Cohen thanked Coderre for his time in the town.
“I can’t blame him for leaving for such an amazing professional opportunity,” Cohen said. “He’s leaving us in great financial shape for the next town administrator. We’ll be thinking of him as we continue the initiatives he began, such as the fire station project and saving White Cliffs.”
Selectman Jason Perreault, who served three terms on the board, noted that Coderre’s time in Northborough spanned across the recession to postCOVID-19, and “over that time there were so many accomplishments.”
“John possesses top-shelf expertise coupled with an extraordinary work ethic and persistence to get the job done,” Perreault said.
He praised his ability to multitask, cope with uncertainty, make well-reasoned recommendations and “focus on finding and implementing solutions.”
“As a board member, I always felt we had excellent information and rationale from John and his staff as input to our decisions,” Perreault said.
The town’s loss is Foxborough’s gain, he continued.
“I’m very sorry to see John leave, but I also know he’s put in place the tools for the Town to carry forward,” Perreault said.