HOWLAND, Maine — Tracey Hutton knows how industrial downturns can devastate small towns.
Her city of Claremont, N.H., was a booming textiles and paper town until the 1980s and 1990s. Mill closures sent the population plummeting and businesses running, Hutton said.
But Claremont is coming back. The town’s population increased for the first time in years, according to the 2010 census. It grew to about 13,300 residents, or by 1½ percent, and small businesses are sprouting, Hutton said.
Hutton wants to help the same thing happen in Howland. The Board of Selectmen voted 4-0 on Monday to hire her to replace departing Town Manager Jane Jones at a starting salary of $52,000. Hutton’s first day will be Dec. 17, Jones said.
“I think she will be a wonderful fit for the position. The board spent a great deal of time interviewing a number of candidates and I think Tracey will be a wonderful addition to the town,” said Jones, who will be moving to the Midwest.
Hutton has two master’s degrees from the University of Maine in Orono, in ecology and environmental science as well as in public administration. She said she looks forward to returning to Maine.
Hutton served as a code enforcement officer for several years in towns including Hermon and Harpswell and was a regional shoreland zoning coordinator for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in its Bangor office, she said.
As Claremont’s city planner, Hutton worked regularly to acquire business development and federal and state housing grants. That, she and Jones said, is good news for Howland as its leaders finish the redevelopment of its former tannery site and prepare for the construction of a fish bypass around the town’s dam and the rebuilding of its second bridge across its two rivers. Construction of the new $10 million Piscataquis River bridge was finished last summer.
Howland leaders have credited Jones with playing a key role in those revitalization projects, which they hope will eventually draw new business and population to the town, which is located just south of Lincoln off Exit 217 of Interstate 95.
Hutton’s new job will be her first as a town manager, she said.
“I think that small towns have a lot to offer and they need to find their niche to be able to grow,” Hutton said. “With the confluence of its [Penobscot and Piscataquis] rivers, it is a beautiful community. I miss it a lot.”
Hutton will have a six-month probation period. Her salary will increase by about $1,500 if she completes it successfully, Jones said.