Town fills planning director position
After nearly nine months with the position vacant, the Rindge Planning Board has finally found a new planning director. Mark Smith, 54, who recently moved from Colorado and now lives in Jaffrey, took on his full-time role last Tuesday.
Smith comes to Rindge with a background full of planning experience and working in small towns. With a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and an American Institution of Certified Planners designation from the American Planning Association, Smith has been involved in municipal planning for 20 years.
The areas where Smith has worked include small towns in Colorado, Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. Smith was most recently in Park County, Colo., where he worked as an associate planner. “Park County was a very rural county,” Smith said over the phone on Monday. He later added that he had worked in other small towns in the past, including Stratham, N.H..
Rindge Planning Board Chair Kirk Stenersen said in a phone interview on Monday that Smith was the best candidate that applied for the job out of the dozen or so applicants. “We felt he would be a good fit,” said Stenersen, who added that Smith’s well-rounded background of planning in small towns, his ability to work with people, and his history of “steering the planning process along” made Smith an attractive candidate.
Smith, who decided to come to Rindge based on the job opportunity, said he has just been getting his feet wet since he started on Oct. 15, working on things like subdivisions and new submittals. “I suspect I’ll be involved in the Walmart proposal, too,” said Smith.
According to a press release sent out by the Town of Rindge last Wednesday, Smith will be responsible for answering questions from the public, meeting with applicants, and keeping track of projects. Smith will also help the Planning board keep the town’s Master Plan up to date, ensuring “that land use regulations and ordinances allow development that is in keeping with the residents’ vision for the future.”
Stenersen mentioned that the most immediate projects Smith would be working on involved a grant application as part of the Economic Development Initiative, since zoning allowances are the next step in the town’s efforts to develop economic growth and a town center. “He’ll help keep things moving along,” Stenersen said of Smith.
Stenersen and the rest of the Planning Board will have more room to breathe with the planning director’s duties taken off their plates. “It was an interesting time,” said Stenersen, who noted that he and other members often stayed late to get all the work done. “We’re looking forward to having someone in the position,” Stenersen said.