The Recorder – Whately hires community development administrator to drive growth

WHATELY – Hoping to spur economic growth across the city, the Selectboard has hired a new full-time Community Development Administrator.

Hannah Davis’ role is to help the town get more grants and let other town officials focus on more day-to-day operations while planning developments in Whately. She started working on October 25.

Davis recently graduated with a degree in environmental science and policy from Smith College. She previously worked for Greenfield as a city conservation officer and worked with planning departments in Northampton and Nevada County, Calif., as a data analyst, she explained in an email.

Selection committee chairman Jonathan Edwards, who was not present at the Oct. 27 meeting where Davis was welcomed, said many people on city councils are taking time off from their usual job requirements to work on issues. subsidies, which is inefficient and sometimes inefficient.

“You miss things, you make mistakes. It’s not the best standard operating procedure,” Edwards said over the phone. “(Davis) is going to know what’s coming, what’s due and what networks we’re going to need to have. … That means we have a coordinator who knows how all the pieces fit together.

Edwards pointed to the increased work capacity that comes with having an extra person in the administrative office, as many small towns like Whately are overworked and understaffed.

“It allows us to be forward-thinking instead of reactive,” Edwards said. “Capacity is an important thing. Small towns still lack this ability and we need to be more self-sufficient.

Edwards said he envisions Davis helping Whately develop several areas around town, specifically highlighting exit 35 on Interstate 91 and where Whately and South Deerfield meet around the former Sugarloaf Shoppes.

“Hopefully I can work with this person to really focus on this whole intersection of (routes) 5, 10 and 116. It’s ripe for smart, managed growth opportunities,” Edwards said. “It’s more than revenue coming in, it’s the traffic it generates.”

Town Administrator Brian Domina said the town recognized the need for the position last fall due to the volume of applications faced by town councils and the complex nature of the industries moving to Whately .

“Whately has seen an increase in requests to the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, first for solar installations and then for marijuana establishments, creating the need for additional professional support for these boards,” wrote Domina in an email, “not only review and process applications, but also engage in proactive community and territorial planning for the future of the city.

At the October 27 meeting, Davis was warmly welcomed by Selectboard members Joyce Palmer-Fortune and Fred Baron.

“We’re really happy to have you here,” Palmer-Fortune told Davis. “If we were in person, there would be a cake.”

Like Edwards, Palmer-Fortune said Davis would help ease some of the pressures city councils face when it comes to applying for competitive — and sometimes complicated — grants.

“(You) have the expertise that volunteer committees don’t have, that they need,” Palmer-Fortune told Davis. “You will bring your expertise and be able to look into things with your knowledge of Massachusetts laws and regulations.”

Baron also thanked residents for endorsing the position and his $49,590 Town Meeting salary, particularly because the roles of the position might not be immediately clear.

“It takes foresight and thought to endorse a position like this,” Baron said, “when it’s not necessarily obvious at first glance that it’s a necessity.”

Davis thanked the Selectboard and said she was excited to get to work.

“I’m so thrilled to be here,” Davis said, “and I’m so happy to join Whately in this role.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.

Norma P. Rex