(Kennebec Journal (Augusta, ME) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 29--The resignation of the director of a regional economic development organization in Waterville is spurring the group to evaluate how it provides services to the area and whether there are opportunities to collaborate with similar organizations.
Darryl Sterling resigned earlier this month as executive director of Central Maine Growth Council, and Kimberly Lindlof, president and CEO of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce in Waterville, will fill in on an interim basis until a replacement is hired.
Both Lindlof and the chairman of the Central Maine Growth Council board, John Dalton, said Sterling's resignation will give the group a chance to step back and look at how the organization delivers services. The nonprofit organization is funded by Waterville, Winslow and Fairfield, along with Colby College, private businesses and other organizations. It was founded in 2001 to promote economic development in Waterville, Winslow, Fairfield and Oakland, which no longer funds the organization.
Dalton, president and CEO of Inland Hospital in Waterville, said the board will begin the process to replace Sterling shortly and could hire a new full-time executive director in four to six months.
Sterling, of Richmond, wouldn't say why he resigned when reached by phone Thursday.
"I'm looking at career options, and I don't have any comment," he said.
Neither Dalton nor Lindlof said they were surprised by Sterling's resignation.
"He's been with us for three years. People move around," Dalton said. He said "a couple of people" on the board were surprised "but most weren't." He said there weren't any disagreements between Sterling and the board that led to the resignation.
Lindlof said the process will provide a chance for all the economic development organizations in the area to examine their goals and assets and determine the best way to deliver economic development. It will also entail asking whether the current structure of a full-time director for the organization is the best use of resources, she said.
"I believe that somebody needs to be full time in charge of economic development for the region," Lindlof said. "Whether this is the best way to structure it? I think it's up in the air."
While serving as interim executive director for the growth council, Lindlof will remain in her position as president and CEO of the chamber that represents communities mostly in northern Kennebec County and parts of Somerset and Waldo counties. She said she's not concerned about fulfilling duties for both organizations for the time being. She and Sterling both served on some of the same committees, Lindlof said, so there is some overlap between the positions. She said the future may bring some opportunities to streamline things.
Joshua Reny, town manager for Fairfield and a board member of the Central Maine Growth Council, said he doesn't think there is a lot of duplication of duties, but there's room to collaborate more closely.
"I think there's a perception out there that there are a lot of organizations out there doing the same thing. I don't think that's necessarily true," Reny said.
Besides the growth council and the chamber, the Kennebec Regional Development Authority and the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments are funded by some of the same communities in the region for similar purposes.
The Kennebec Regional Development Authority was created in 1999 by 24 communities in Kennebec and Somerset counties to build FirstPark, a shared business park in Oakland, and to create a regional group tasked with bringing business to the area.
Before hiring a new executive director for the park last year, some communities in the development authority wanted the group to consider combining the position with the Central Maine Growth Council's executive director position.
Reny said there were discussions between the two boards about finding ways to be more efficient, but they decided it wasn't the right time to merge the positions. Sterling and FirstPark's director, Brad Jackson, ended up collaborating on a couple of projects.
Reny and the managers of Waterville, Winslow and Oakland -- the four communities that started the CMGC -- sent a joint letter shortly after the previous FirstPark director announced her resignation asking the executive committee to consider combining the position with another local organization.
Reny said he doesn't know if he would support combining the positions now, but he thinks it's worth having the conversation.
According to the organization's most recently available tax form, Sterling had a salary of $70,884 in 2012.
Paul Koenig -- 621-5663
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