After nearly 15 years leading Hopkinton, this official is moving to the private sector

HOPKINTON — Town Manager Norman Khumalo has announced that he will retire from a 30-year career in municipal government — nearly 15 of them in Hopkinton — sometime in early 2024.

In a press release, Khumalo said he has accepted a job as vice president of government relations and growth for Solect Energy, a Hopkinton-based solar company that's owned by multinational sustainable energy company Pattern Energy.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve such a vibrant, growing town," Khumalo said in a statement in referring to Hopkinton. "I am grateful to all the great civic leaders, board and commission members and volunteers. Together we have worked to make Hopkinton the community it is today."

Hopkinton Town Manager Norman Khumalo, right, and Hopkinton police officer Kevin Sager were present for the official painting of the start line in advance of the 125th running of the Boston Marathon in October 2021.
Hopkinton Town Manager Norman Khumalo, right, and Hopkinton police officer Kevin Sager were present for the official painting of the start line in advance of the 125th running of the Boston Marathon in October 2021.

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“I have always believed in giving back, and I have long felt a calling to give something back to Zimbabwe and to Africa,” added Khumalo, a native of Zimbabwe. "Solar and renewable energy present a unique opportunity to bring advancement and opportunity to the people of Africa. With the skills I have developed and opportunities I have been given here in North America, I hope to fulfill this lifelong dream to help those in my native country and the continent of Africa."

Earlier in his career, Khumalo worked for Oxfam, a global organization that fights inequality to end poverty and injustice. He credits that experience with his moving into public service and now into the private sector.

Khumalo consolidated town departments, helped boost bond rating

Khumalo started as town manager in Hopkinton in June 2009, replacing Anthony Troiano. In the nearly 15 years since, Khumalo has led a reorganization of town departments, including the consolidation of land use, planning and permitting into a single Land Use Department. Similarly, he consolidated the legacy treasurer, accounting and assessing offices into the Hopkinton Finance Department.

Under Khumalo, Hopkinton saw its bond rating raise form AA to AAA, according to the release issued by the town. The town also became a certified Green City under his guidance.

Khumalo was a de facto host for the Boston Marathon, as the historic foot race starts in Hopkinton.

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"Norman really does want everything to work for as many as possible," said Jack Fleming, president and chief executive officer of the Boston Athletic Association, in a text message to the Daily News. "His reasonableness is only surpassed by his sincerity and intentionality."

The BAA organizes the Marathon.

Khumalo was previously assistant town manager in Westford from 2002-09. He also had municipal roles in Lawrence, Walpole and Wellesley. He also worked as a town planner for the city of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.

In 2022, Khumalo was a finalist for city manager in both Cambridge and Watertown but lost out each time.

Select Board chair says Khumalo served with 'dedication and unwavering professionalism'

He holds two master's degrees, one in regional and urban planning and a master of public administration from Carlton University in Ottawa.

Hopkinton Select Board Chair Muriel Kramer praised Khumalo's work.

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"Norman Khumalo leaves us having securely positioned Hopkinton with durable and sustainable structures and processes firmly in place that we will use to build for the future,” Kramer said in a statement. "He has served Hopkinton with dedication and unwavering professionalism, and I know I speak for the board and the town as a whole when I thank him for his years of exceptional service and wish him and his family blessings for their future.”

Fleming described Khumalo as both methodical and thoughtful.

"He listens, first and foremost," Fleming said. "He really listens. In the 15-plus years that we have known Norman, he's always approached every situation, issue or conversation with such respect for all involved, and that became an invitation to be called into the conversation with him."

Khumalo's last day on the job will be determined in collaboration with the Select Board and other senior leaders so as to ensure a smooth transition.

Daily News Editor Dan O'Brien contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on MetroWest Daily News: Hopkinton Town Manager Norman Khumalo to retire after nearly 15 years