Bellows Falls development director resigns


ROCKINGHAM — After six years of serving as director at the development office, Francis "Dutch" Walsh is resigning this Friday.

"It's just time for me to go," Walsh said Wednesday evening in phone interview.

Select Board has held several meetings recently where board members went into executive session with a lawyer to discuss, "personnel." At this year's March 1 organizational meeting, board members went into executive session for that matter and when they came out of executive session, Chairman Lamont Barnett made the motion to defund the Development Office until further notice and instructed Town Manger Willis "Chip" Stearns to secure the town's interests, up to and including taking keys and passwords. The motion did not pass.

In a phone interview on March 30, Barnett said he has wanted to make changes in the development office because he feels it has not been good for the community as the town "spends a lot of money in that department."

When Walsh was asked if talk around town and meetings discussing "personnel" influenced his decision to leave, he said, "No comment."

Walsh has accepted a job with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation where he says he will be managing real estate.

In reflecting on his work while at the Development Office, he said he most enjoyed working with the people.

"It's a great staff there, a lot of potential and support," said Walsh. "When Chip Stearns came on as Manager, I knew we were headed in the right direction with plans and positive development and movement. I can't say enough about the people who work there."

In leaving the office, Walsh said the town has a lot of opportunity to grow in the downtown area, industrial park and worldwide companies, but it very much needs economic development and to utilize young professionals in the area.

"They are our future," Walsh said.

Recently, on March 29, Zoning/Planning Administrator Charles "Chuck" Wise read aloud an open letter to the Select Board in support of the town manager. It was signed by 13 of the town's department heads, which led Barnett to feel it may have put employees in an uncomfortable situation.

"If that letter hadn't been written, I would have written it," said Walsh at the March 29 Select Board meeting."I would have done it at home and I would have done it on letter head. And I was asked to sign this; I didn't have to sign it, but I did and no one was coerced."

Walsh's last day at the office will be Friday, April 8, and he believes he will begin work at the BDCC in early May.

"I can't stress enough for what the employees have done in the downtown is fantastic, the opportunities that exist are great," said Walsh. "In some ways I wish I could stay there to watch it develop."


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