Planner position to eliminate job held by Karen Brace

By Susan Mustapich | Nov 21, 2017
Photo by: File photo The community development director position held by Karen Brace has been eliminated by the town of Camden.

CAMDEN — The elimination of the community development director position held by Karen Brace was announced by Camden Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell Nov. 20.

Brace was hired in June 2015 from a pool of 25 applicants by former Town Manager Patricia Finnigan.

"I have enjoyed my work in downtown Camden from my beginnings with the chamber in 2010, to the current time," Brace said Nov. 21.

"I'll especially miss the hardworking committee members who volunteer their talents in so many ways for the community. It's been a pleasure to work for this worthy cause and I hope the community projects we've begun can continue."

The decision came as a result of "evaluating departments and positions, and listening to feedback from staff members and citizens to try and determine the areas where we need to change how we allocate staff resources," Caler-Bell wrote in her weekly report to the Select Board.

"I have determined that the best way to structure Camden’s planning, code enforcement and community & economic development activities is under a Planning & Development Director. This position will be responsible for overseeing the operations and staff in the Planning, Code Enforcement, Development Department and will be directly responsible for the Town's planning and community & economic development activities," she wrote in her weekly report.

Caler-Bell called the decision "very difficult."

"I greatly appreciate the work that Karen has done for the Town of Camden. You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who loves this community more than Karen. I also appreciate her willingness to stay on with the Town while we make this transition," Caler-Bell said in her report.

A major focus of the community development director position as it was originally developed was to manage local events that were formerly run by the Chamber of Commerce, according to Caler-Bell.

In recent months, the responsibility for running town events, such as Windjammer Weekend, has been shifted to the Parks and Recreation Department. Caler-Bell cited the hiring of Holly Edwards as assistant director of Parks and Recreation, and her background in running events.

Caler-Bell believes this function was not the most efficient use of time for a community and economic development position, and sees planning as a more important function of the job.

Caler-Bell said Nov. 22 that Brace will assist with the transition, including handing over, or wrapping up, certain projects, and providing good documentation on the status and next steps for ongoing projects.

Caler-Bell explained that the position of planning and development director will be advertised by the end of the week. The advertisement will run for about a month, she said, to give potential applicants time to respond during the busy holiday season. She hopes to fill the position by the beginning of February.

The new position will be managerial, according to Caler-Bell. She sees an interdisciplinary background in planning and economic and community development as important to the job.

"In smaller communities, all economic development is community-based," Caler-Bell said. "You are working closely with smaller businesses and residents to meet a need in the community."

The new position will manage work on planning and land-use issues, oversee the public process, and provide direction. Caler-Bell sees the ability to manage these areas as important and needed in Camden. The planning director will staff the Camden Economic Development Advisory Committee, which will continue to play an important role in identifying needs and ideas, and to serve as liaison to business and community organizations, including the Camden Area Business Group, the Downtown Network Board and Connect Camden.

The position could potentially oversee an ordinance review committee that would review, develop and revise ordinances, to free up the Planning Board to focus on reviewing development applications. This would be similar to what is being done in the town of Rockport, Caler-Bell said.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Nov 22, 2017 15:11

I second that thought Francis! To let a seasoned knowledgeable person go and hire someone to replace is not saving money and telling Brace she is no longer needed. Money will be spent with the new hire when Brace is let go. So methinks, "Politics may be afoot"! I hope the community knows how special the talents are, were, from Karen Brace.



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Nov 22, 2017 04:19

There can never be enough managers, eh.



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