BUCKSPORT — A local banker will become the town’s next economic development director, filling a position that has been empty since David Milan resigned last summer and accepted a similar job in Orono.
Richard Rotella, Bucksport branch manager of Camden National Bank, was recommended for the position by a committee made up of Interim Town Manager Susan Lessard, Town Clerk Kathy Downes and two town councilors.
In explaining their choice, Lessard highlighted Rotella’s background in finance, his familiarity with the community and his “upbeat” attitude.
“He’s very familiar with loans and financing and working with entities to find ways to … buy a home or fund a business, and that background will be very helpful as we look towards populating the business component of the community,” Lessard said. “He has a track record of success in the positions that he’s had prior to this, and I think he truly loves this community.”
The council voted 6-0 to appoint Rotella at a meeting Monday night (after its Nov. 12 meeting was postponed due to a power outage). Councilor Glenn Findlay was not present.
Rotella will begin work Nov. 30. He will make $50,000 in his first year.
A 39-year-old Rhode Island native, he attended Thomas College in Waterville and has also worked at MBNA and Bank of America in Belfast.
Since moving to Bucksport 13 years ago, Rotella has become very involved around town, coaching soccer and softball at Bucksport Middle School, serving on various town committees and running for Town Council last year — all while raising two daughters, Brianna and Abigail, ages 8 and 12, with his wife Jennifer.
Beyond administering straightforward projects such as a recently approved expansion to the town’s industrial park, Rotella will also spearhead the town’s participation in the Orton Family Foundation’s Heart & Soul Program, which helps forward-looking communities make the best use of their assets and collect broad input from residents.
Rotella’s formal job title will be “community and economic development director,” Lessard said, because “it’s more than just pounding the pavement and looking for valuation.”
He’ll work with the various groups and committees trying to chart a course for this town, which lost 575 jobs and almost half its property tax valuation when Verso Paper Corp. closed the paper mill last year.
The town’s economic development director position was created 20 years ago.
Milan, a former police officer, had held the position since 2001.
Milan identified several accomplishments when stepping down last summer: convincing businesses to use the town’s industrial park, steering the construction of the Penobscot-Narrows Bridge and getting Bangor Gas to extend natural gas lines to Bucksport.
After the mill closure, Milan became the point person for AIM Development, which bought the mill from Verso. The company now plans to demolish the mill and redevelop the site, but has said little about businesses it is trying to attract.
Rotella will play a similar role, but he and Lessard also spoke of the need to take a broader view in the post-mill era.
To revitalize, Rotella said, “It’s going to take help from all sides of Bucksport to get people here, to get it moving and expanding. Let’s hit Route 46, let’s hit outer Bucksport. We can’t just focus on the downtown; we need to focus on all the people, all the businesses.”
One of his goals is to attract businesses and services that will make Bucksport more appealing, both to tourists and professionals who don’t mind a short commute to Ellsworth, Bangor, Belfast or Blue Hill.
As for his qualifications to do so, Rotella mentioned his 16 years in the finance industry and his experience attracting new clients.
“It’s a lot like attracting those businesses to Bucksport,” he said. “Not only businesses, but also getting people to live in Bucksport.”
Rotella suggested career fairs as a type of event where he could promote the town, because if someone is looking at a job in Brewer and learned of the amenities in Bucksport, he reasoned, that person might consider relocating here.
“I’m really excited for the challenge,” Rotella said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but I thrive in those types of situations, and I’m excited to see where the town’s going.”
The town has yet to fill another position: that of finance director. No one has held the job since Kathryn Hickson resigned a year ago.
Lessard said she’s waiting until the results of an ongoing financial audit come back before making a recommendation to the council about whether to hire a finance person. She clarified that even with Rotella’s knowledge of finances, he will not be asked to assume any of the duties Hickson performed.