BELFAST, Maine — The city’s first-ever economic development director has a diverse background that includes extensive studies in Near-Eastern languages and archaeology, experience dealing poker and blackjack in California casinos and hard work promoting development in Piscataquis County.
All of this helps make Thomas Kittredge, 33, a good fit for the Belfast post, according to the city officials who confirmed his appointment at Tuesday night’s regular council meeting.
“I think he’s going to be an excellent economic director,” said Councilor Lewis Baker after the meeting. “He seems to have a lot of energy … I want him to work on anything he can.”
Kittredge, who has been the executive director of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council for three years, will start his new position on June 21, at a salary of $51,500. The Brewer native and graduate of Yale University and Johns Hopkins University was selected from a field of 25 candidates from eight states for the new position.
“I’m looking forward to the change,” he told councilors. “I think there’s a lot of good things we can do for Belfast.”
Kittredge said that the Piscataquis County nonprofit has worked to attract grant funding for communities there, including helping Milo get grants to help it recover from its devastating 2008 downtown fire. He said that he is looking forward to reaching out to the Belfast business community to learn what types of resources and services would be most useful.
“You have to be strategic and tactical with time and resources,” Kittredge said. “For business attraction, you have to be very focused. You can’t go after everything under the sun.”
Although his background shows a wide range of interests — he said that he dreamed of being Indiana Jones when he was young and “tried to make it” as an actor in Hollywood — economic development is a fairly recent passion. When he returned to Maine in 2006, he started volunteering to help the city of Brewer with business development projects and found that he liked the work and its challenges.
“Working with a city, I think, is going to be very exciting,” Kittredge said.
City Manager Joseph Slocum said that he thinks that Belfast has an “outstanding” opportunity in its newest employee.
“He’s certainly got the energy and initiative and drive,” Slocum said. “I think we’ve got the energy, the assets, the resources to really bloom.”
In other business, councilors approved a $6,424 bid from MAC Electric in Belfast to do a lighting project for Kirby Lake, also known as The Muck.
They also agreed to look into potentially finding ways to ease the property tax burden for the city’s senior citizens. Some southern Maine communities have begun a program which allows some older residents to work off part of their property tax bills and a new state law aims to let towns defer property tax for seniors who are 70 or older, earn less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level and have lived in their homes for 10 or more years.
“I think these [ideas] are both terrific and would be good additions to Belfast,” said Councilor Mike Hurley.