Brandon hires new economic development director

BRANDON — It’s taken years, but the town of Brandon has finally hired an economic development director.
Town Manager Keith Arlund confirmed last week that Stephen Beck of Leicester has accepted the position.
Beck and his wife, Jennifer, own and operate the Point Counterpoint music camp on Lake Dunmore, which they bought in 2007.  Beck is originally from York, Pa., and moved to Vermont from New Haven, Conn. He has an extensive background in economic and community development, specifically in job development and affordable housing, and brownfields remediation and commercial re-use.
“This is exactly what I was looking for,” Beck said. “If someone had asked me to write my perfect job, this would be it.”
Beck spent 15 years as president of the family industrial coatings business in York before handling the sale of the business in 1998. He then went back to school and received his master’s degree in city planning from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002.
During that time, he spent over a year doing community outreach with the Baltimore Regional Partnership, educating civic groups, public officials, business leaders and students about regional land use, housing and transportation, and environmental and economic development impacts.
Beck went on to become an independent consultant in the greater Philadelphia area regarding real estate development, developing revitalization options for market-rate and subsidized affordable housing through community outreach and commercial enterprises.
The Becks moved to New Haven, Conn., in 2005, and Stephen Beck became deputy director of the Livable City Initiative, helping to direct affordable housing and community development.
From February 2009 until March of this year, Beck was the brownfields coordinator for the Regional Growth Partnership, the economic development arm of the south Central Connecticut Council of Governments. Brownfields are areas of real estate contaminated by toxic waste. Beck was responsible for marketing and outreach for a number of federal and state grants used to clean up brownfield sites and worked with developers to reclaim and commercially develop the sites.
The job of Brandon economic development director is a part-time, 20-hour-per-week town employee position with no benefits.
“I’m very excited,” said Brandon Selectman Devon Fuller, who chairs the town’s ad hoc economic development committee and worked with Arlund through the interview and selection process. “Steve’s really excited. He’s energetic, he’s very excited about the position and that’s a big part of it because we need someone who has the energy to hang in there and work with us and turn it around, because as you know, the economy is not good right now.”
Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Janet Mondlak, who has been pushing the town to fill an economic development position since 2007, also is pleased with Beck’s hiring.
“I am very happy with the news that the town of Brandon has hired an economic development director,” Mondlak stated via e-mail. “I have not yet met him but have heard positive things about his background, creativity, and enthusiasm. I welcome a new partner to the table to help with the tasks at hand.”
Beck and his wife have two grown sons, who both spent their summers at Camp Keewaydin on Lake Dunmore since the third grade. It is that experience that led the couple back to Vermont in 2007.
“We knew that if we stayed in New Haven, the kids would never visit,” Beck said. “And we had no family there, so…”
Older son Ben, 25, graduated from the University of Vermont and is an avid skier. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in English at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Son Andy, 23, graduated from Yale University in 2009 and is currently doing conservation work in India.
Stephen Beck is the facilities manager at Point Counterpoint, while Jennifer Beck is the camp administrator.
While Beck admits his economic and community development background is much more urban, he said Vermont’s beauty and way of life are in need of careful development as well.
“That’s what attracted us to Vermont all along,” he said. “We have to preserve this and develop it responsibly. I’m very interested in this. Towns are so important. We need to keep them sustainable and also preserve them.”
All applicants for the job were asked to submit an essay detailing their vision for Brandon. Beck said the preservation of Brandon’s priceless history is key, and efforts should be made to promote it. He also said that economic and community development rely on collaboration.
“Working together the business community, civic leaders, town government and citizens will build strong relationships,” he wrote.
Beck also wrote that Vermont’s natural beauty and quality of life components should be protected, and that there should be greater outreach to the area’s agricultural community, particularly focusing on the local food movement. He also said, in reference to artists and craftspeople, that “supporting the creative class is a key to future growth.”
Beck said he is an avid swimmer and reader. He is roughly a third of the way to his goal of reading all of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novels. He also loves winter, and wants to learn how to snowshoe and the art of dog sledding.
“I love snow, I love cold, I love everything about winter,” he said enthusiastically.
Beck also believes he is home.
“We would come up 91 from New Hampshire and as you cross the Vermont border, you wouldn’t even see the sign,” he said. “You’d just know.”
There will be a Brandon Area Economic Development Committee meeting to formally welcome Beck on Aug. 31 at 8 a.m. at the Stephen Douglas House meeting room.

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