Deerfield hires planning and economic development coordinator

Deerfield’s Municipal Offices and Police Station on Conway Street.

Deerfield’s Municipal Offices and Police Station on Conway Street. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 11-03-2023 4:07 PM

DEERFIELD — Come December, Deerfield’s long-running saga of seeking a planning and economic development coordinator will finally come to a close.

The town has tapped Blandford Town Administrator Christopher Dunne to fill a position the Selectboard has been discussing for nearly two years. Dunne will begin work in early December and will be paid approximately $83,000.

Selectboard member Tim Hilchey said Deerfield has been working toward creating the position for a while now and Dunne’s expertise will help advance town projects.

“We’ve been in need of a planner for some years, and this will help give direction and coordination to all of the goals we’ve set for the town,” Hilchey said. “It will also bring a new set of eyes from outside of town to help us focus.”

In the role, Dunne will be tasked with securing grants, developing strategic support and coordination for town government and projects, working with land-use boards on bylaw development and interpretation, and providing permitting assistance.

The Selectboard has been discussing the need for a position like this since at least 2021, when its members described it as a “grant writer.” The need, at least at that point, was sparked by the town’s push to revitalize South Deerfield due to the complexity of the town’s municipal campus idea, which includes upgrades at the Leary Lot, the town common, the 1888 Building and the South Deerfield Congregational Church, as well as a senior housing project.

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While the position was discussed for years, it was finally brought before town residents at spring’s Annual Town Meeting, where they approved a $73,519 budget line item for the role. However, Dunne will receive approximately $83,000 because of the competitiveness of the role and his wealth of experience in municipal government, according to Hilchey, who said the Personnel Board also agreed to the increased wage.

Dunne was one of 16 total applicants who went through an initial screening committee composed of Hilchey, Planning Board Chair Denise Mason, Town Administrator Kayce Warren, Assistant Town Administrator Chris Nolan and Town Accountant Brenda Hill.

“He’s got a great resume and he has a lot of experience writing grants. As a town administrator, he’s actually had to be both a planner and an administrator,” Hilchey said. “He asked a lot of great questions, had a great attitude and was very well-spoken.”

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