After a nationwide search that drew nearly 100 applicants from more than 30 states, the Leesburg Town Council has hired a new town manager from just down Market Street.

John A. Wells, deputy Loudoun County administrator, has been chosen as the town's chief administrative officer responsible for its day-to-day operations. He will have hiring and firing authority over the town's 300-plus employees and will oversee such town services as public works, planning and Leesburg Executive Airport.

Robert S. Noe Jr., Leesburg's current town manager, announced in February that he would retire Oct. 1 after five years in the position. A long and secretive selection process culminated Tuesday at a special Town Council meeting, during which the council unanimously approved a contract giving Wells, 46, an annual salary of $128,000, in addition to a car stipend and the loan of a laptop computer and printer.

Wells has lived in Leesburg for 17 years and has worked for Loudoun County since 1982.

"I'm not going to be intimidated by working in an environment that's dynamic and going through a lot of change," said Wells, who said he was interested in the town manager position as soon as he heard about the vacancy.

Wells said his priorities include ensuring the integrity of the town's financial systems. Leesburg has had two credit card scandals involving town employees in the past 41/2 years.

"He has a total commitment to the town of Leesburg," said Mayor Kristen C. Umstattd, who cited Well's experience in government finance in his current post as a key qualification. Umstattd also said she was relieved that the council made and announced its decision on schedule. "It would have been a shame to be without a town manager for any amount of time," she said.

Council member Robert J. "Bob" Zoldos said that he expected Wells's experience in Loudoun County to smooth relations between Leesburg and the county government and that Wells would be responsive to residents' concerns.

"I think he will be a go-to guy," Zoldos said. "People will be able to come to his door and get the results they're looking for."

During the summer, the original list of 96 applicants for the position was culled to six, who were interviewed in July. Wells and another candidate were interviewed again in August. The identity of the other finalist, who was from out of state, was not disclosed.

Wells is a native of Buffaloand grew up in western Pennsylvania. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from Gannon University in Erie, Pa., and a master's degree in public administration from the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Wells and his wife, Debbie, have three teenage children.