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Watertown City Council introduces new city manager

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For the past 27 years, Sharon A. Addison helped keep the country safe while working for the National Security Agency.

She plans to do the same for the 27,000 residents of Watertown when she begins her new job as city manager on July 16.

The Watertown City Council formally appointed Ms. Addison, 49, as city manager during a special meeting Saturday morning. She will earn an annual salary of $120,000.

Ms. Addison was introduced during a news conference after the 10-minute special session. About a dozen of her family members, including her two daughters, joined her during the meeting, as did a handful of City Hall staffers.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be appointed as your city manager,” Ms. Addison said.

In those 27 years at the NSA, she worked at Fort George G. Meade, Md., first as a technician/analyst and the last 15 years as a division chief responsible for overseeing programs in intelligence, she said.

Citing the secrecy of the agency, Ms. Addison said she could not provide any more details about her work there, repeating the same thing she told council members during her job interview: “To keep you safe at night.”

She joked that she plans to do the same for city residents now.

Ms. Addison, Severn, Md., said she does not anticipate a difficult transition from working for the federal government to taking the helm at City Hall. She expects to be brought up to speed quickly on city issues and the inner workings of municipal government.

Council members cited her extensive managerial experience with the NSA as setting her apart from the other 36 applicants for the position.

Ms. Addison told reporters that she looks forward to leading the city and working with council members.

A 1985 graduate of SUNY Potsdam who studied math and computers, she grew up in Schenectady and has owned waterfront property in Fishers Landing along the St. Lawrence River for about 10 years. Her sister, Laura L. Lamon, teaches at Guardino Elementary School in Clayton.

Ms. Addison will officially retire from her position at the NSA on July 13, she said.

“I’ve been wanting to return to New York since I’ve owned the property up here,” she said.

Ms. Addison was spending Easter weekend in the area when she saw an ad in the Watertown Daily Times for the city manager position, and sent in her resume. Without municipal government experience, she said, she wondered about her chances of getting the job, but thought she could adapt with her NSA management skills.

“It was a long shot without municipal background,” she said.

Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns, acknowledging that she expects “naysayers” to complain about the appointment of someone without a local government background, said she’s confident Ms. Addison will learn quickly about city government.

“She’s a quick learner and our excellent department heads will help her be brought up to speed,” Mrs. Burns said.

Ms. Addison shared more about her background during her job interview in executive session with City Council members. Council members then gleaned enough information about her from a background check and references to they made Ms. Addison their top choice.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham thanked fellow council members and interim City Manager John C. Krol for their help in the city manager search, adding that it “ended up a quicker process than had been anticipated.”

Ms. Addison said she intends to buy a house in the city and live there with her 8- and 11-year-old daughters, Kiera A. and Mckayla N. Weber. Her son, Brennan T. Furrow, 22, will remain in Maryland, where he works and attends college.

During her north country visits, Ms. Addison often shopped here and ate at area restaurants. She said her best memory of Watertown comes from last year’s July 4 festivities, which she and her family attended.

“We got there early to get a good seat and put down a blanket and lawn chairs,” she said.

Ms. Addison said she hopes to be living here by this year’s Fourth of July.

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