WINDHAM — Windham’s new town planner says she is looking forward to “providing good public service to the community” and seeing the tangible impacts of her work.
Jenn Curtis was selected to fill the position after Amanda Lessard, the former town planner, was appointed to fill the position of planning director. The former planning director, Ben Smith, resigned in April 2018, and Lessard served as interim planning director beginning in December 2018.
Curtis, who began her new job May 6, had previously worked for the state on the Land Use Planning Commission in Augusta.
“It’s still the same idea of planning for how the land gets used, but (Windham) is a different situation in that there’s a lot more actual pending applications and general activity in terms of development,” Curtis said.
Prior to her work with the commission, she worked for the Penobscot River Restoration Trust and for the state’s Flood Plain Management Program.
Lessard said she received many qualified applicants for the position, but Curtis “has a varied background that can play a role in different projects in town. She’ll be able to get up to speed quickly.”
Curtis said the planner position is “just a great growth opportunity.”
“There’s a lot more activity down here. There’s a lot happening,” she said. “Having the theory behind how to create land use plans is wonderful, but I think now I have the opportunity to see it implemented and be a part of that process.”
Curtis has learned that she has to be extremely organized and focused because “there’s always wild cards, and there’s always rabbit holes and it’s easy to get lost.”
She continued, “There’s just so much nuance. There’s a new process at every stage and new variables for every project.”
Lessard said that Curtis’s duties will be staffing the Planning Board, while she herself will focus on long-range planning and implementation of the comprehensive plan.
While in Windham, Curtis would like to help the town develop its unique characteristics, as laid out in its existing plans, and ensure the town is addressing its environmental issues.
“My biggest goal is to be thought of by the people who I’m working with and serving as someone that has a lot of integrity, is acting responsibly and is providing good public service for the community,” she said.
Lessard said having Curtis on staff will allow the planning department to move more quickly: “Being fully staffed, we’ll be able to respond in a more timely manner to what the council’s goals are.”
Curtis grew up in Farmington and lives in the Augusta area with her 4-year-old daughter Avery. She said she loves hiking and is working on hiking all of the mountains over 4,000 feet in Maine.
She has a bachelor’s degree in environmental management from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in public policy and management from the Muskie School of Public Service in Portland.
“My feeling is that good government comes from people having a lot of input,” she said, encouraging the community to pitch in. “Things happen when you show up and try. If you see something in the community that you want to draw attention to or change, give it a try.”
Jane Vaughan can be reached at 780-9103 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Windham Town Planner Jenn Curtis started work May 6.