ROCKLAND, Maine — Community leadership in midcoast Maine is taking a beating these days, as another administrator is leaving the area.
Robert Hastings, executive director of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce since September 2001, will become the new executive director of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce in Gloucester, Mass., at the end of the year.
Hastings’ resignation comes after recent departures by former Rockland City Manager Tom Hall and former Knox-Waldo Regional Economic Development Council Executive Director Alan Hinsey. Hall has become town manager of Scarborough. Hinsey is planning to produce a weekly business program on television.
“There’s going to be a leadership vacuum,” Hastings said. “But you know that nature abhors a vacuum, and already there’s a replacement for Hinsey.”
Hastings vowed to work actively with the board of directors to help find his replacement.
He notified his employees and volunteers on Oct. 15 of his decision.
“Your Chamber will continue to drive business into the area,” he said in his note to employees.
“I have been privileged to work with an extraordinary staff,” he said, citing especially employees Shari Closter, Roxanne Jobe and Lorain Francis as part of an “extraordinary team.”
Hastings will head a 1,300-member chamber in a combined industrial and seafood-based economy on Massachusetts’ North Shore, similar to Rockland’s, he said. The Pen Bay Chamber has 780 members.
In an interview this week, Hastings told the Bangor Daily News that he cleaned up Rockland’s downtown when he arrived in 2001. He had been the executive director of the Door County Chamber of Commerce in Green Bay, Wis.
“One night after a summer solstice celebration, my wife, Donna, and I saw all the litter on the streets,” he said, adding that he picked up the trash after the event and that he was joined by Tom Hall and his wife.
Just recently, after another community event, Hastings went over the same route as before and remarked that Rockland residents are taking pride in their downtown area.
“The renovation of the Strand Theatre, arrival of Tom O’Donovan’s Harbor Square Gallery and Rooftop Gallery in a former bank building, rebuilding of the former Spear building into the Camden National Bank at Main and Park streets and arrival of Cafi Miranda were all improvements,” he said.
Hastings gives a lot of credit to Rodney Lynch, economic development director for the city of Rockland, for his vision and ability to get grants, the latest for the streetscape that is replacing the sidewalks in the downtown area.
The father of two grown daughters, Anna and Kate, and grandfather of two, Hastings and his wife, Donna, live in Rockport.
“My wife’s family lives in Abington, Mass., so we won’t be far from her relatives,” he said.
A proponent of taking a regional approach to economic development, Hastings has worked closely with chambers in Belfast and Camden to promote midcoast Maine to businesses outside the area.