Sixteen candidates emerge for planning, economic development post in Deerfield

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 09-06-2023 7:53 PM

DEERFIELD — With at least 16 applicants throwing their hats in the ring to be the new planning and economic development coordinator, the town has organized an informal screening committee to vet candidates before a final decision is made.

The Select Board agreed by consensus last month to organize a screening committee composed of Select Board member Tim Hilchey, Planning Board Chair Denise Mason, Town Administrator Kayce Warren, Assistant Town Administrator Chris Nolan and Town Accountant Brenda Hill.

The screening committee expects to have finalists come before the Select Board for public interviews as soon as possible.

“We want to move on it,” Warren said. “Start thinking about interviews as early as next week if we can.”

The position will be focused on securing grants, developing strategic support and coordination for town government and projects, working with land-use boards with bylaw development and interpretation, and providing permitting assistance.

Much of the Aug. 17 discussion revolved around whether the town should create a formal committee, which would be subject to the Open Meeting Law, and whether a Select Board member should sit in on the screening process.

Board member Trevor McDaniel was initially skeptical of having a Select Board member sit in on the screening committee because it will have the final say on a candidate anyway and he said he’s learned over the years that sometimes it’s best for the Select Board to take a step back.

Hilchey, however, said hiring for this altogether new position is different than “what is tradition for replacement hires,” and that having a Select Board member on the screening committee will help vet the best candidates.

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“This person is going to be interacting with the Select Board on a wide array of economic and grant development issues,” he said.

Chairwoman Carolyn Shores Ness agreed, noting that the Select Board made a push to fund the position at Town Meeting and time is of the essence, with the first quarter of the fiscal year ending Oct. 1.

Shores Ness described the role as a “value-added” position, with one of its major tasks focused on bringing in grants and other money to town, which is needed now more than ever.

“I feel very strongly that we have to have someone that will be on a first-name basis with our congressional delegation and state delegation,” she said, adding that the town needs these extra sources of money to fund the many large projects it has planned.

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