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Norman Khumalo

The Cambridge City Council convened to discuss COVID-19 protocols and other important city matters Monday evening.
The Cambridge City Council convened to discuss COVID-19 protocols and other important city matters Monday evening. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Katerina V. Corr, Crimson Staff Writer

City manager finalist Norman Khumalo said he is driven to Cambridge as a “community in transition” in his candidate questionnaire. Cambridge, he wrote, is “pursuing contemporary ideals and in some cases losing ground on gains achieved in the past.”

Cambridge’s Initial Screening Committee announced four finalists who will move forward in the search for a new city manager earlier this month: Iram Farooq, Cheryl Watson Fisher, Yi-An Huang ’05, and Norman Khumalo.

Khumalo is currently the town manager in Hopkinton, a role he has held since 2009. Previously, he served in management and planning roles in the governments of Westford, Walpole, Wellesley, and Lawrence in Massachusetts. He also worked as a senior town planner in the City of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.

In his resume, Khumalo, who declined an interview request, describes himself as a “highly talented town manager” who “seeks to apply his extensive skills to a municipal organization.”

Earlier this year, Khumalo was named one of three finalists for Watertown’s city manager but was not selected for the role.

The cover letter he submitted for the Watertown position, which was made public by the Watertown City Council, is nearly identical — with the exception of several minor changes in phrasing — to the one he submitted for Cambridge.

Khumalo says in his Cambridge candidate questionnaire that he is “inspired by Cambridge’s commitment to addressing income inequality, social change, social justice, equity, and anti-racism.” He also highlights affordable housing, public transportation, and sustainability as other top priorities.

Some of Khumalo’s past initiatives described in his application included establishing “the first public transportation routes in Westford and in Hopkinton” and introducing the Dial-A-Ride program for elderly residents. He also detailed projects designed to mitigate climate change — what he describes as Hopkinton’s “strategic priority” — such as a stormwater management plan and adding more green space in Hopkinton developments.

When prompted to describe his leadership style in the questionnaire, Khumalo centered his description around “Ubuntu.” Khumalo describes the philosophy as an understanding that “as human beings, we are attached in every respect.”

He frequently employs the term “balance” to describe his leadership principles — balancing “confidence with humility,” “a desire to accomplish with patience,” and “hard work with having a joyful experience.”

“The pandemic has strengthened my belief in ‘Ubuntu,’” Khumalo writes. “Especially concerning the need to be holistically human-centered, to better understand my colleagues, and residents, including placing their needs, aspirations, resilience, wellness front and center in my daily routines with renewed enthusiasm.”

—Staff writer Katerina V. Corr can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @KaterinaCorr.

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