June 20, 2018
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Wellington wore many hats as Bangor’s code officer

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
After serving the City of Bangor in various capacities for nearly four decades, Dan Wellington recently retired as Bangor's director of code enforcement.
By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Dan Wellington’s singular title for the last 18 years has been division head of Bangor’s code enforcement office. But it has felt more like a half-dozen jobs for the Bangor native, who called it quits last month after 34 years as a city employee.

“The variety of the job was amazing,” said Wellington, 55. “You never knew what you were going to see or hear from day to day and you got to be involved in some amazing projects, too.”

It wasn’t supposed to be like this for the longtime West Side resident, who wound up working 28 of his 34 years with the city in its code enforcement office.

“The thing that kept me with the city is they kept moving me up and giving me more and more responsibility,” said Wellington. “Guys I went to college with were on their sixth or seventh job, and the reality is I had five or six jobs with the city, but I kept the same employer.”

Wellington started off as many teenagers do, with a part-time seasonal job.

“My first job was with parks and recreation for the summer,” he said. “I thought the job was to mow grass, but I spent a lot of that time out here at Bass Park shingling the old barn roofs instead.”

Little did Wellington know that the job would be a preview of how versatility would play a major role in his career.

“I did whatever they needed me to do,” he said. “We also had to go way up there in the Bangor Auditorium and lay down under some of those nosebleed balcony seats to fix them after concerts because people would stand on them and dance on them and loosen up the bolts that connected them to the wall.”

What was supposed to be a temporary job took a turn at the end of that fateful summer of 1977 as an unexpected opening in the recreation department allowed Wellington to become playground director.

From there, it was onward and upward for Wellington, who also ran the city’s animal shelter for a couple of years.

Wellington’s duties with code enforcement have ranged from assisting in fire investigations to checking unattended deaths to helping residents secure necessary permits for home renovations.

“Dan, I think, did this well, where he could bounce from one area to another at the drop of a hat,” said Jeremy Martin, Bangor’s zoning administrator and development and permitting coordinator and Wellington’s interim replacement. “That position, as you can imagine, isn’t exactly always popular with people, and the scope of the office is massive, from land use to fire to health, and zoning issues, just to name a few, on a day-in, day-out basis.”

Wellington said the job required him to wear many hats.

“Sometimes you have to be a bit of an investigator by asking lots of questions to help people get things they don’t even know they need,” he said.

But it was Wellington’s years as division head — overseeing construction projects in the city — that gave him the most job satisfaction.

“I oversaw $1.3 billion in new construction in this town through my run as the division head, and that’s a long run,” said Wellington, who listed the old Freese’s Department Store building — now occupied by the Children’s Discovery Museum — and the Bangor Waterworks, which was turned into low-income housing as his personal favorite projects.

During Wellington’s tenure as division head, six different people held that same position in the neighboring city of Brewer.

“We’ve not grown in population much, but we’ve certainly seen growth in the community as a commercial hub,” Wellington said. “I’d go off to conferences and tell them we’re a city of 30,000 people, but we have 7.5 million square feet of retail space, two hospitals, two psychiatric hospitals, a 27-hole golf course, a new arena planned, and an international airport. … And they’d ask me if we had 30,000 people or 300,00 people.”

Rod McKay, Bangor’s community and economic development director, said the search for Wellington’s permanent replacement is well under way.

“We have 13 applications and are reviewing them now,” McKay said last week. “We’re scheduling interviews over the next week or two and should come to a decision within a month.”

Martin is one of the 13 applicants.

“He was a people person and always tried to understand all sides of issues he was dealing with,” Martin said of Wellington. ”That’s a quality I saw from him that I’ll take with me as I continue along.”

“I always liked hiring smart people who could learn and who were good with people,” Wellington said. “You have to enjoy working with people, and I’ll miss the people most, but I won’t miss those midnight fire calls.”

Wellington isn’t sure what his future holds, but he knows it’s not full-time golf or shuffleboard.

“I could do something on a consulting basis or maybe having my own business,” he said. “It’s exciting, but it’s a little intimidating, too.”

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