Wiscasset hires Portland man as planner

Posted:  Tuesday, February 9, 2016 - 3:45pm

A couple of years from now, Wiscasset’s new town planner, Benjamin Averill, would like to see a stronger downtown Wiscasset. 

“It’s a great downtown, with lots of unique and amazing places. But I’d love to have every store front with stores in it,” Averill said in a telephone interview Tuesday evening.

The town announced his hire hours earlier. Averill starts Feb. 22, Wiscasset Administrative Assistant Kathy Onorato states in an email Tuesday afternoon.

Averill, 27, of Portland, is originally from Rochester, New Hampshire. He comes to the Wiscasset job after serving as a property manager for Avesta Housing, where he managed 100 affordable housing units, according to a biography in Tuesday’s email.

“He is very excited to be joining the Wiscasset community and is excited to help the community continue to grow and succeed. Benjamin is excited to have the opportunity to explore more of (the) Midcoast with his wife and would (be) willing take any suggestions for great hikes or other opportunities to get outdoors,” the biography reads.

In Tuesday’s interview, Averill described Wiscasset’s location as one of its greatest strengths, but also a weakness: People travel through it; he would like to give them more reasons to stop, he said.

His wife Kelly Averill is a co-lead educator at Bowdoin College’s children’s center in Brunswick; the couple are looking to move soon to the Bath-Brunswick-Wiscasset area, Benjamin Averill said.

In May, Averill is set to receive a master’s degree in community planning and development from the University of Southern Maine. Asked why he applied for the Wiscasset opening, Averill said: “I’ve been interested in the midcoast area for a while now, so when I saw the posting I saw Wiscasset as a place where I could affect change and hopefully not only have it be a place to start a planning career, but hopefully also a place that could be more long-term.”

He is aware of recent years’ turnover of planners in Wiscasset, he added.

Misty Parker served three years before moving on to a job with the city of Lewiston in October 2014; Jamel Torres started in December 2014 and left in December 2015 for the Saco-based Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission.

Among Averill’s duties as planner, he said he is looking forward to working with the new Wiscasset Historic Preservation Commission. He worked briefly for the Society for Architectural Historians, on an online publication about important buildings in Maine.