Methuen Community Development Director departs

File photoEconomic and Community Development Director Bill Buckley, right, speaks with former Mayor James Jajuga.

METHUEN — Longtime Economic and Community Development Director Bill Buckley is preparing to leave his position after 20 years for a job in the private sector, according to Mayor Neil Perry, who says he will now restructure the division Buckley oversaw in an effort to more effectively serve the city.

Perry said a posting for Buckley’s job is expected to go live shortly on the city’s website. In the meantime, the city’s Inspectional Services director, Felix Zemel, will absorb Buckley’s duties as they relate to health and inspection work.

Perry expects to name Planning Director Kathleen Colewell acting director after Buckley leaves in early August.

“He’s been of great assistance to me and I’ll miss him,” Perry said of Buckley.

At the next City Council meeting on Aug. 2, Perry said he will present members with a reorganization plan to split Buckley’s former role into two distinct positions. During the coronavirus pandemic, Perry said, he realized that while some portions of the role overlap, the city is best served having a separate economic and community development division.

“If we’re going to entice businesses to come into the City of Methuen, we need someone working on that 24/7,” Perry said, adding that he did not at all fault Buckley for neglecting any such duties during the pandemic, but realized he was otherwise preoccupied with coronavirus-related tasks such as vaccines and the like.

The council must approve Perry’s request, the mayor said.

Hiring for additional health personnel would come by way of grants already secured through the hard work of Zemel, Perry said.

Perry’s vision for the department moving forward is one that focuses on “full-time marketing of the city,” he explained.

“During the pandemic, our housing growth was significant, but what we have to focus more on is more business. The residential part we get,” the mayor said. “We have to do more to attract businesses. Methuen doesn’t have a reputation for being business-friendly, but we’re working to change that.”

One small step Perry and others at City Hall have taken to assist business owners is a program called “Startup in a Day.” According to Perry, Council Vice Chairman D.J. Beauregard authored legislation, cosponsored by Councilor Eunice Zeigler, to adopt a resolution to “eliminate red tape” for business owners when pursuing approvals, licenses and permits at City Hall. The goal is to ensure business owners can receive necessary documents within 24 hours or less, Beauregard said. That legislation was unanimously passed last May.

“The last thing we want to say to people is that they have to come back next week to talk to this person or that person about another license,” Perry said of making City Hall a one-stop shop for business needs.

According to Beauregard, he was encouraged to author the legislation "because Methuen should be one of the easiest places in the Merrimack Valley to start a business."

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