The Piscataquis County Economic Development Council has hired a new executive director at a time when big decisions that will affect the county’s future are pending.

Angela Arno, who works as the Maine State Chamber of Commerce’s director of events and programming, starts as executive director on Monday. Former director John Shea departed last month to lead a Kansas nonprofit.

The economic group has chosen a new leader during a pivotal time for development in Piscataquis County. Municipalities and county commissioners are pursuing solutions to spotty internet in different ways, and a proposed ski resort redevelopment project on Big Moose Mountain will soon go to public hearing. Arno will play an important role in facilitating efforts to grow the county’s economic opportunities.

Angela Arno is the new executive director of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council. Credit: Courtesy of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council

“Angela is a local,” said Denise Buzzelli, who serves as the economic group’s board president and was the interim director. “She knows this region like the back of her hand. She knows what we’ve accomplished, what has worked and what hasn’t, and [she] is ready to roll up her sleeves and take us into our next successful season.”

Arno’s roots in Piscataquis, seven years on the economic group’s board of directors and connections with state and federal agencies made her the best candidate for the job, according to the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council search committee. The search for the new director took six weeks.

Arno will also have to work with Piscataquis County Commissioners, who expressed frustration with Shea and his focus on broadband last month and debated whether to cut the economic council’s funding.

Growth of the local economy should be a thoughtful balance between attracting new businesses and residents and the nature-based tourism and recreation that the county is known for, Arno said.

One of the council’s duties under Arno’s leadership includes creating a new economic development strategy for Piscataquis. The group received a $70,000 grant for the effort and has until March 2023 to develop the strategy.

“From what I understand, this will be a wonderful opportunity to review what is working, what needs improvement and create an updated road map for our organization,” she said, noting that reconnecting the organization with communities in the county will inform the plan and move the economic council forward.

The search committee saw Arno’s experience as an asset to the organization, particularly the strong relationships she has built with state and federal agencies during her time with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

Arno grew up in Dover-Foxcroft and has ties to the northern part of the county in Kokadjo. She lives on Sebec Lake in Bowerbank.

Arno has worked as the Maine State Chamber of Commerce’s director of events and programming since March 2019, according to her LinkedIn profile.

From 2014 to 2018, she served as the Moosehead Lake Region Chamber of Commerce’s executive director. Arno is also an independent marketing consultant for Further North Consulting, which she started in 2011, according to her profile.

Arno hasn’t had a chance to meet with the board of directors to discuss priorities, so she chose not to comment in detail on the economic council’s role in efforts such as broadband expansion and the ski resort project under her leadership. A collective vision is important, she said.

She looks forward to meeting and having conversations with town managers and others around the county.

“As a resident who is committed to the region, I want to hear what their challenges are and where they feel they need support,” she said.