BUCKSPORT — If you’ve ever enjoyed a hike through Ellsworth’s City Forest off Route 1A, you have the late City Planner Jef Fitzgerald to thank.
James E. Fitzgerald (Jef) died April 11. He was 60.
“The City can actually thank him for the trails at the City Forest,” said former Ellsworth City Planner Michele Gagnon, who now works in Bar Harbor. “He walked the land up and down, figured the nice spots, and laid out the trail that was later cleared by the Maine Youth Corps.”
Fitzgerald’s work on the city forest occurred during his first stint working for Ellsworth in the planning office from 2006 to 2012.
“He was a very hard worker from routine tasks to complex projects,” said Gagnon. “He was focused. He had the ability to go from planning to implementation.”
“He loved his family and children dearly,” Gagnon added.
Fitzgerald spent the next eight years working as the town of Buckport’s assessor.
“During his tenure he not only completed an in-house property revaluation, compiled photos of all Bucksport properties for our assessing records, and upgraded our mapping capacity – he also coordinated efforts for the update to the 2017 Comprehensive Plan and served as the go-to person for Bucksport NEXT, the duct-tape committee of all local organizations, and worked on many other community projects,” said Bucksport Town Manager Susan Lessard. “Jef was always willing to help – and had a calm manner that seemed to soothe the most irate taxpayers.”
“When he left Bucksport, he told me that it was not because he was unhappy here, but because the city planner job for Ellsworth was his dream job,” Lessard recalled. “While I was very sorry to see him leave – he was so happy and excited about the future that you could not help but wish him joy and success. Even after leaving, he helped us transition to our new assessor and was a great resource to her in her first few months. He will be missed.”
Fitzgerald started his position as Ellsworth’s city planner Sept. 3, 2019.
Before joining local governments, he had worked as a planner for the Hancock County Planning Commission. That was in the early oughts.
Deer Isle Town Manager Jim Fisher began working with Fitzgerald at HCPC in 1999.
“He was the commission’s environmental planner and cartographer,” said Fisher. “At that time, he was making maps by hand with press-type, vellum and ink pens. We worked together to transform all map-making to computerized Geographic Information Systems within a couple years. His surveying and cartography skills translated well and he was soon making most of the maps for towns using the new technology.”
“He used his design skills to help redesign the Blue Hill-Surry transfer station,” Fisher said.
“Jef always had a calm and friendly attitude and managed a diverse workload independently and competently,” the town manager said. “He was very devoted to his big family, his church community and the town of Bucksport. I will miss him.”
Fitzgerald is survived by six children, six grandchildren and a fiancée.
A memorial service for the Bucksport resident will be held in the future.