By Les St.Pierre
CLAREMONT, NH–Speaking before an audience of approximately 35 people at the Claremont Savings Bank Community Center last Tuesday evening, incoming new city manager Ryan McNutt let his perspective fellow citizens know exactly what they can expect from their soon-to-be city chief.
“I think you will find me somebody who is very easy going,” the Massachusetts administrator told the crowd. “Hopefully, I will put forth the atmosphere of being very easily to talk to. I like to be seen as approachable. I look forward to meeting you all and listening to your concerns.”
McNutt, along with interim city manager J. Patrick MacQueen, was introduced to those in attendance by Claremont Mayor Charlene Lovett in a very informal gathering which allowed interested residents of the community to view their new administrator, listen to his comments about his new employment, and, in the end, ask any questions they desired. Concluding her introduction, Lovett pointed out the reason for the meeting by reporting, “I hope you will have a better sense of who these gentlemen are.”
MacQueen, who has extensive local government general management, labor relations, community development, and intergovernmental relations experience, including 17 years as city manager in Keene, with interim-like posts in Enfield, Pelham, Bedford, and Durham, as well as a long-term contract as city manager in Berlin, took to the podium first.
“I pretty much do this for the fun of it,” MacQueen said with a laugh when referring to yet another interim position here in Claremont. MacQueen will stay on as interim city manager until February 1st when McNutt will take over the reign at City Hall. Both men follow in the footprints of outgoing City Manager Guy Santagate, who retired December 31 after ruling the roost for the past 15 years. MacQueen admitted the one big problem in Claremont is the property values before moving over to what he likes about the city. “You have a gorgeous downtown and the city staff is very competent,” he duly noted. “I could not be more impressed with this city. It is the best kept secret in the state, as far as I am concerned.”
McNutt followed up MacQueen’s likability of Claremont with his own thoughts, comparing the New Hampshire municipality with that of Fitchburg, MA, the place where he grew up. He drew on the fact both cities are, or were, mill cities, with huge textile histories, and a river running through the middle of each city. He particularly stated he was impressed with Claremont’s vast open space and noted its importance for a good quality of life if “marketed appropriately.” “Claremont has invaluable resources, as long as they are taken care of,”
McNutt pointed out. “Claremont is a good place to attract new folks to come into the city. I will work on the property value issues. I guess that is the big elephant in the room.”
Born in Peterborough, NH, McNutt was moved to the Bay State early in his life and made his presence well known in both Fitchburg and Lancaster. Graduating from Fitchburg State College in 2008 with honors and with a Masters Degree in 2014, both in History, he immediately became a volunteer serving as a director of demobilization during the 2008 ice storm in Fitchburg. His early introduction into the operations of city management diverted his initial goal of becoming a history or social studies teacher into one of city government service. “I had friends who became more involved in the city and one became mayor and I worked for her as a chief of staff,” McNutt informed the group. “It was my entryway into working in government service. I really got to see the fruits of my labor.”
McNutt served his Chief of Staff post in the administration of Mayor Lisa A. Wong in Fitchburg from 2009 to 2011 and then became Director of Housing for the same city from 2011-2014 before moving on to become Town Administrator for the town of Lancaster where, according to his resume, gained strong communication skills in both written and oral form, including valuable “grant writing experience with proven success.”
“I heard a lot of good things about Claremont,” McNutt reported. “I happened to look and Claremont was advertising. I traveled up here on my own and I fell in love with it. I applied and was able to win the support of your search committee, the city council, and the hiring firm, and now I am putting myself in your hands.”
Knowing full well his job will have peaks and valleys, praise and criticism, McNutt continued with what his early plans will be as he gets to know the city and its people. “What is going to help me in my first 90 days is I am going to hear the things I don’t want to hear,” he stated. “That’s where I really need to start, to buckle down and see what the challenges are beyond what I have been able to see. That is what I really plan to do in the early part of my time here, make my way around the community and talk to the many business owners, realtors, government employees, and residents and try to understand what the priorities are you want to see worked on.”
The question and answer portion of the meeting centered upon a variety of topics including the use of arts in the community, avenues for resources, meeting with school officials, right-to-know laws, housing, and the Master plan. Bernie Folta brought up the right- to-know law and McNutt responded with, “My attitude is that anything I say or write down, anything I email, anything I do in the public, unless it is in executive session, is open with me. I don’t expect to write or say anything that I don’t expect to be on the e-Ticker News the next day. I’ve always operated under the preview of ‘release it’. I want to get more folks involved, especially when it comes down to marketing the city. I’ve got to hear from the vocal negative crowd, but turn those opinions around and power the more positive people in the community.”
Trying to remain humble throughout his speech McNuttt told his listening audience, I want to be recognized for doing a good job, but I don’t need to be told it. I have no desire to be famous. I just want to do a good job.”
City Manager Ryan McNutt speaks to the crowd that gathered at the Claremont Savings Bank Community Center. Also pictured: Mayor Charlene Lovett and interim city manager J. Patrick MacQueen (Bill Binder photo).
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