Whately hires community development administrator to foster growth

  • Hannah Davis is the new community development administrator for the town of Whately. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Hannah Davis is the new community development administrator for the town of Whately. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Whately Town Offices at 4 Sandy Lane. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 11/4/2021 4:33:25 PM

WHATELY — In hopes of fostering economic growth throughout town, the Selectboard has hired a new full-time community development administrator.

Hannah Davis’ role entails helping the town secure more grants and letting other town officials focus on more day-to-day operations while planning developments throughout Whately. She began working Oct. 25.

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

Selectboard Chair Jonathan Edwards, who was not present at the Oct. 27 meeting where Davis was welcomed, said many people on town boards take time away from their regular job requirements to work on grants, which is inefficient and sometimes ineffective.

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

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

“It’s allowing us to be forward-thinking instead of being reactive,” Edwards said. “Capacity is an important thing. Small towns always lack that capacity 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.

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

Town Administrator Brian Domina said the town recognized the need for the position last fall based on the volume of applications facing town boards and the complex nature of industries moving into Whately.

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

At the Oct. 27 meeting, Davis received a warm welcome from Selectboard members Joyce Palmer-Fortune and Fred Baron.

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

Like Edwards, Palmer-Fortune said Davis will help alleviate some of the pressure town boards 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 said to Davis. “You’ll be providing expertise and being able to look into things with your knowledge of Massachusetts laws and regulations.”

Baron also thanked residents for approving the position and its $49,590 salary at Town Meeting, especially because the job’s roles might not be immediately clear.

“It takes some foresight and consideration to approve a position like this,” Baron said, “when it isn’t necessarily obvious on its face 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 stoked to join Whately in this position.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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