By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY – The Community Economic Development department is getting some badly needed reinforcement as Mayor Thatcher Kezer announced the hiring of Bill Scott as the city’s new Deputy Director of Community Economic Development.
Scott, a resident of Newburyport, is the current Community Development Director for Salem, N.H., where he has worked since 2001. He has also worked in North Andover and Newburyport and has over 25 years of professional economic development experience to his name.
Kezer touted Scott’s hiring as a coup for Amesbury and added that he expects Scott will ultimately succeed Joe Fahey as Community Economic Development Director. He said finding someone with top-notch economic development credentials was among his top priorities, and the fact that Scott is familiar with the area was an added bonus.
“We were looking for someone with a lot of economic development skills, rather than just planning skills,” Kezer said. “We had a lot of people with planning backgrounds apply, but we were looking for a guy that got big projects done.”
While in Salem, Scott oversaw the economic development of a community that has a population of nearly 30,000 and over 6 million square feet of commercial property. He also utilized grant funds to retrofit three fire stations with LED lighting, instituted a computerized traffic system and managed the creation of a fiber network for municipal buildings to eliminate T1 networking costs.
In North Andover, where he worked in multiple capacities from 1996 to 2001, he established a Master Plan, Tax Increment Financing plans and served as the project manager for the community’s new youth center and senior center, which were funded through donations and grant funds.
Scott was also instrumental in many major development efforts in Newburyport between 1989 and 1996, including the creation of the Firehouse Civic Center, the reestablishment of the CDBG grant programs and improvements for the Cashman Park ramp and Fish Pier. He also obtained $1.8 million in funds for the Newburyport Police Station.
“A key part of getting projects done is communicating the information about the projects in a way that people can understand it and support it,” Kezer said. “He was top notch on that.”
Scott will begin on a part-time basis on Thursday, May 23 and will work in the office every Thursday after that until Tuesday, June 25, when he will officially start full-time. Scott will initially earn a starting salary of $70,085, but that will bump up to $72,537 after six months of employment, according to chief of staff Eric Gregoire.
By taking the Deputy Director position, Scott is also taking a substantial pay cut. According to public municipal finance records, Scott earned $96,971.27 in gross wages last year while in Salem, N.H.
Kezer said Scott was likely willing to take the pay cut in the short run because of the opportunity to move back up to his original position in the near future.
“It’s an opportunity,” Kezer said. “Part of the presumption is that when Joe decides to retire, he’ll move up and get back to what he was.”
Fahey has served as Amesbury’s economic development director since 1979, and city officials expect he will likely stay on for at least two more years to see the Lower Millyard redevelopment project through to its completion.
The hiring of Scott will allow Fahey’s department the ability to focus more resources on other projects that the city wants to move forward, including the development of the Golden Triangle between I-95 and I-495.
“Starting off, Joe’s pretty much working the Lower Millyard, so we’ll try to keep [Scott] focused on the other projects we need to keep moving along,” Kezer said. “So as he gets spun up on these issues, he’ll obviously be a support for Joe on the Lower Millyard stuff too.”
The Community Economic Development department experienced layoffs in 2009 following the economic downturn and has been operating with just five employees. As the economy begins to improve and more projects start to go forward, getting more help in the office for Fahey became a priority for both Kezer and the City Council, who budgeted for the position in this past year’s municipal budget.