BARRE — The City Council was introduced to one new executive director this week and told that another could be on the way soon.
On a night when councilors met Joel Schwartz, the new executive director of Barre Area Development Corp., they learned that the Vermont Granite Museum of Barre should soon be in the market for its own full-time leader.
Ulysse “Pete” Fournier, president of BADC, introduced Schwartz to councilors Tuesday, explaining that he was hired after Darren Winham resigned to take a consulting job as an economic development specialist for Waterbury.
Schwartz, who is expected to start work next month, praised the job Winham did as executive director and said he was eager to start splitting his time promoting economic development in Barre and neighboring Barre Town.
Citing downtown revitalization efforts, which range from the recent reconstruction of North Main Street and the ongoing redevelopment of the historic Blanchard and Aldrich blocks to the construction of City Place, Schwartz said the city has made great strides.
“Barre is on a very good path here,” he said.
Schwartz, who described himself as “project-oriented,” said he wants to build on that momentum with an eye toward sustaining it long term.
Schwartz, who lives in Danville, is no stranger to economic development. He worked for 13 years as the community development director in St. Johnsbury and was employed at one time as a community development specialist for the Northeastern Vermont Development Association.
Fournier said the BADC board was impressed with Schwartz’s credentials and confident he will pick up where Winham left off — juggling more than three dozen projects in Barre and Barre Town.
Shortly after welcoming Schwartz aboard, councilors were told that the Vermont Granite Museum’s board of directors is poised to launch a search for its first full-time executive director since Tess Taylor left that paid position in 2006.
Patricia Meriam, chairwoman of the museum’s board, told councilors it has become increasingly clear that to advance plans for the museum, hiring a full-time staff person is necessary.
According to Meriam, that was the clear view of those who attended a forum in the former Jones Brothers granite plant — home of the fledgling museum — in October.
“What came out of that (forum) was an overwhelming acknowledgment that we need an executive director,” Meriam said, noting that view was shared by a clear majority of the 114 respondents to an online survey the museum board conducted last year.
Meriam, who has served as executive director in a part-time, volunteer capacity in the past, said she wasn’t interested in the full-time position but believed it was warranted.
Regan Howard, the newest addition to the museum’s board of directors, agreed.
Howard told the council that the need for an executive director is reflected in the survey’s other results, which suggest that while support for the museum remains strong, respondents don’t necessarily have a good grasp of what organizers are and are not doing.
That confusion is understandable, according to Howard. She said that although the museum does offer guided tours by appointment and organizers are involved in plans to construct a bike path and sculpture garden on the property, renting out the renovated museum-owned Pinsly Depot on Depot Square is its primary source of revenue.
“Primarily right now we seem to be a landlord,” she said.
Councilors were told the museum board has budgeted money to hire an executive director and is finalizing the job description. The expectation is that the person hired will find a way to make it self-sustaining.
Meriam said the museum board is also pursuing plans to install a concrete floor and restroom facilities in the former Jones Brothers plant with an eye toward luring tour buses that already stop at other central Vermont attractions.
Information about the museum, including results of the survey, can be found at www.granitemuseum.org.
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