Middlebury’s town zoning director leaving for college job

MIDDLEBURY — Ted Dunakin confirmed last week that July 2 will be his last day as Middlebury’s director of planning and zoning. His imminent departure — to serve as a maintenance project manager at Middlebury College — comes at a time when the community was already looking for a new town planner to replace Eric Blair, who left earlier this year to take a job with the Orton Family Foundation.
But while the local planning office will be down two key positions, Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay stressed that business as usual will continue. Municipal staffers Beth Dow and Tom Scanlon both have had experience working in the planning office and will be available to process permit applications or refer them, when appropriate, to the Development Review Board (DRB). Dunakin has offered to remain a resource until the town makes a new hire.
“We have arranged for Beth and Tom to (temporarily) fill the void,” Ramsay said.
In the meantime, Middlebury officials have recalibrated their search for new staff for the planning office. The community had, for several weeks, been seeking to fill Blair’s town planner position and recently concluded a first round of candidate interviews. But officials have now decided to scrap the search for a new town planner and are instead advertising for a new director of planning and zoning. As of Wednesday, June 24, Ramsay had received five applications for the job.
Once a new director of planning and zoning is hired and his or her strengths are known, the town will decide whether to supplement that position with a new town planner or a new DRB administrator, Ramsay explained.
She thanked Dunakin for his seven years of service to the town and wished him well in his new job at Middlebury College.
“Ted did a fantastic job for the town of Middlebury,” Ramsay said. “He stepped up to take the job of director of planning and zoning and exceeded all of our expectations.”
Dunakin, 38, began working for the town as an intern while finishing a master’s program at Vermont Law School. He became a paid staffer in August of 2008, filling the role of DRB administrator. It was two years ago that he became director of planning and zoning, succeeding then-Town Planner Fred Dunnington, who retired after more than three decades of service.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Dunakin said of his work with the town. I feel very fortunate to have had this position with the town of Middlebury.”
He and his family have settled in Ripton, right next door to Middlebury. And Dunakin won’t have any further to commute to his new job with the college. As maintenance project manager, Dunakin will coordinate and monitor, from start to finish, upgrades to any existing college facilities.
Dunakin does not anticipate having to represent the college’s permitting interests in front of his soon-to-be-former DRB and planning commission bosses.
It was two weeks ago the college offered Dunakin the job. He believes the new opportunity will give him a new career challenge, and cited the Middlebury College benefits package as an additional inducement.
Asked what he would miss most about his current job, Dunakin cited his colleagues.
“Kathleen (Ramsay) has done a great job building a great team here,” he said. “They’ve been great people to work with.”
Dunakin acknowledged the timing of his departure is not ideal, given Middlebury is already down a town planner. But he reiterated his willingness to help, when possible, following his departure.
“I want to make this transition as smooth as possible for the town,” he said. “I don’t want to leave the town in a bind.”
He listed the 2012 revision of the Middlebury Town Plan, the evaluation of the Vermont Hard Cider and new state office building applications, and the review of the new town office and recreation facility plans as among the weightiest issues the DRB and planning commission dealt with during his tenure.
Middlebury Planning Commission Chairwoman Nancy Malcolm added her voice to those who have appreciated Dunakin’s contributions to the community.
“I can speak for the whole planning commission when I say we will truly miss Ted and wish him all the best,” Malcolm stated in an emailed response. “It was fun to work with Ted and watch him grow from someone who was learning the ropes into someone that we turned to for the right advice. Ted treated everyone fairly and looked out for the best interests of the town and those making requests — not always an easy task. It is also very comforting to know that he is only a phone call away if we get stuck in the interim.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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