Dartmouth Development Director says a fond farewell

Aug 6, 2020

Former Director of Development Deborah Melino-Wender is saying goodbye to Dartmouth after spending the past decade helping shape the town.

Melino-Wender defined the role for the new position when she took charge ten years ago, fresh from a job as executive director at the City of Providence’s Capital Center Commission.

“I was interested in getting back into more direct, hands-on work on a local level,” she said of the move. “Working in a municipality, you have direct contact — day-to-day — with the people who are most affected [by your decisions.]”

“Working with everyone in the community, you see the results of what you do, and what you don’t,” she added with a laugh.

During her tenure in Dartmouth, Melino-Wender focused on looking for opportunities to get more funding for the town through grants.

“It was millions of dollars we applied for, and got,” she said thoughtfully. “You’re not gonna get everything, obviously, it’s very competitive.”

But over the years, Melino-Wender said, she helped various town boards and committees apply for almost $30 million in grants, submitting more than 90 applications and receiving more than $15 million in funding.

The money went to projects big and small, from the new maritime center and the new police station to feasibility studies and land acquisition for parks and open spaces.

Other achievements Melino-Wender rated highly include securing $5.3 million in state funding for the new North Dartmouth library branch, starting an affordable housing trust and a housing assistance purchase plan, and preserving acres of farmland to sell to local farmers.

“Each one of them carries its own sense of accomplishment,” she said, adding that she is happy to have been a part of projects “that really benefit the community.”

“And seeing a project come to fruition is always the best part,” she laughed.

One challenge, Melino-Wender noted, was the town’s inability to find outside funding to build a new dog park. Neither private sector nor state funding applications have succeeded. 

But she said she leaves the project in capable hands with the Dartmouth Dog Advisory Working Group, or DDAWG, which is currently fundraising for the park. “DDAWG, the local volunteer group, is probably one of the best I’ve worked with,” she said. “They’re committed.”

Melino-Wender left Town Hall for good on July 31, and is currently packing up for a move to southern California to be nearer her new grandchildren.

“All our children are there,” she said. “It’s a big move! I’ve lived my whole life pretty much around here, so it’s gonna be a challenge for me...But family is the most important, and we’re really looking forward to spending more time out there.

Back in Dartmouth, with a hiring freeze due to the pandemic in place, Melino-Wender said she’s not sure if there will be a new Director of Development in the near future.

But she will always remember her time here fondly.

“Dartmouth is a really sweet place to work,” she said. “The staff that I have worked with is dedicated...I was really honored to be a part of that.”

“It’s all been blessed,” she added.