October 31, 2014

Town says goodbye to two

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Jessica Demar leads a tour of the town’s efforts to restore the water quality of the Allen Brook.

Jessica Demar leads a tour of the town’s efforts to restore the water quality of the Allen Brook.

By Stephanie Choate
Observer staff
The town is looking to fill two key positions after Recreation Director Kevin Finnegan and Senior Environmental Planner Jessica Demar left their staff roles this summer.
Finnegan had been with the town for 13 years.
“During that time Kevin worked behind the scenes to make sure that the numerous town recreational programs and activities went off without a hitch,” Town Manager Rick McGuire wrote in an email to the Observer. “With so many people involved and so many programs, this was no small feat for one person to handle. Kevin used his calm demeanor and even-handed approach to ensure the success of these programs given limited resources.”
Finnegan took over and grew the after school ski program and other after-school programming. He also oversaw renovations to Brennan and Rossignol parks and helped prepare a master plan for a new park behind Allen Brook School, part of which has been constructed.
“It’s a challenging position that Kevin has filled over the years and he’s been pretty much a one-man show,” McGuire said.
Finnegan resigned July 8 for “personal reasons,” said Public Works Director Bruce Hoar. Finnegan could not be reached for comment before the Observer’s press deadline.
The town recently posted a survey on its website, asking residents to share their priorities for recreational programming and facilities.
McGuire said he received 75 responses within several days of posting the survey, which will remain on the town website through Aug. 15.
McGuire said he has received between 10 and 15 applications for the recreation director position. The deadline for applications is Aug. 15.
During Finnegan’s tenure, the position was rolled into the Public Works Department.
“The position is being restructured somewhat,” McGuire said. “It’s being moved out of the Public Works Department and it will essentially be a standalone department.”
McGuire said the town hopes to have a new director in place by November. In the meantime, members of the Public Works Department are filling in.
Demar, who has worked for the town for six years, announced last week that she would not be returning from maternity leave. Her last day was Aug. 6. Demar and her husband are expecting a daughter later this month.
“I am no doubt going to have a hard time letting go of my work here with the town but I’m also looking forward to this new transition,” she said.
McGuire said the town does not yet have a plan for filling the position vacated by Demar. Her temporary replacement is Tommy Niewenhuis, who served as Demar’s intern.
Demar was instrumental in the addition of the Sucker Brook Hollow Country Park last July and the expansion of the town’s trail system.
“She also worked hard to protect water quality and natural resources in Williston,” McGuire wrote in an email to the Observer. “She brought tremendous enthusiasm to her work and in combination with her technical knowledge of natural resources, was able to accomplish many projects involving stream restoration, water quality improvement and protection of open spaces in Williston.”
Demar worked to permanently protect 37 acres of stream bank and led groups in planting approximately 5,000 trees and shrubs along the Allen Brook, helping improve its water quality. She also worked to develop the town’s watershed improvement plan and development standards to protect conservation areas.
Demar said she will miss working with residents, school groups, teachers, interns and government officials, as well as “being involved in a community and encouraging smart growth,” she wrote in an email to the Observer.
“Take good care of Williston’s local streams, wildlife, viewsheds and wide open spaces,” she told residents. “In my opinion, it’s these natural resources that make Williston such a lovely place to live, work and recreate.”

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