BANGOR, Maine — Community and Economic Development Director Rodney McKay, who has worked for the city of Bangor since 1967, will retire this spring, the city announced Monday.
Recalling all of the major civic projects he has shaped and led is difficult even for McKay. But since McKay oversaw the shape and development of one of Maine’s major cities for almost half a century, the list is quite long.
“The city has always been very forward-thinking and I’ve had a lot of interesting jobs over my career,” said McKay, 68, who will retire April 14 after 45 years and three months on the job. “We’ve been very fortunate to work on a lot of different projects.”
McKay began his career in Bangor as community development director after a four-year hitch with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He said his Army experience, which involved a lot of travel as a captain responsible for keeping all vehicles in Europe operational and combat-ready, helped prepare him for his work in the Queen City.
“Bangor was a very vibrant city with lots of economic activity when I was drafted, but when I came out of the service, things changed after a lot of the bases were closed,” said McKay, who has been responsible for business attraction and expansion, marketing and managing Bangor’s business and industrial parks, and facilitating new development since 1996.
Where some would see a roadblock, McKay and other municipal officials saw opportunity. City-owned Bangor International Airport is an example.
“The closure of the [Dow] Air Force Base gave us a unique opportunity with the airport,” McKay said. “We looked at others and nobody wanted to do it and we did, which is kind of unusual.”
Bangor also took ownership and operation of Bangor Municipal Golf Course under McKay’s tenure, expanding its membership and its size — from 18 to 27 holes.
McKay pointed to other projects he takes great personal pride in, from the downtown revitalization project that has been going on for many years, the neighborhood preservation program, Kenduskeag Stream Park, and the development of the Bangor Waterfront.
“The waterfront represented the biggest opportunity for change in Bangor and that’s turned out pretty well,” he said. “Buying up the 36 acres the city now owns on the waterfront and taking that former industrial area with dilapidated buildings, no infrastructure, and contaminated land and making it what it is today over the years — well, the changes have been phenomenal.”
McKay also has seen downtown Bangor come full circle — from an area of bustling businesses to near-ghost town to newly vibrant shopping and social center.
Now McKay — who has been married for 35 years to his wife, Joyce, with whom he has two children — will oversee home improvement projects as well as work on a cottage in Hancock he co-owns with his sister.
And pending City Council approval, he also will continue to serve Bangor as a development consultant “to finish up a few projects and ease the transition.”
Despite his love for his job, McKay said it’s a good time to retire.
“I’m a bit beyond normal retirement age already,” he noted. “The resources to do projects are very restricted now, along with tight city funding. So it’s difficult to undertake new projects and different projects, which have always been of interest to me, so it seems like a good time to turn things over to a younger generation.”