New Town Planner settling into role in town which ‘has everything’

Jan 9, 2019

For Christine O'Grady, Dartmouth’s new Town Planner, Dartmouth has everything she could have hoped for in a community.

O'Grady began her first day on the job on Jan. 7, filling a role that has been vacant since the sudden departure of former Planning Director John Hansen in June 2018. He accepted a job as Swansea’s Town Planner.

O’Grady brings with her both private and public experience. She began her career in the private sector following her graduation from the University of Rhode Island, working for the Maguire Group on various planning projects in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

Despite being in the private sector, she worked on several major public projects. She handled the permitting for Rhode Island’s Iway project, which involved the relocation of the Interstate 95/195 interchange and cleared valuable land closer to downtown Providence for redevelopment.

After two decades in the private sector, however, O’Grady was ready for a change.

“I wanted to try something completely different, so I went to Newport,” O’Grady said. “It’s been very exciting. Over the years I had been on the the Planning Board in my hometown of Barrington, Rhode Island. I had definitely had an interest in it, and I had done that for so many years.”

Her public career began in Newport in 2015. Working in the coastal community, she helped the city develop Federal Emergency Management Agency plans and the agency’s national flood insurance program, as well as work with the city’s comprehensive plan.

“I’m very interested in emergency preparedness and sea level rise,” O’Grady said, noting that she will also be working on Dartmouth’s in-development Padanaram Harbor Management Plan, which includes emergency preparedness and sea level rise-related initiatives.

What attracted her to Dartmouth was the wide variety of development in town: Industry, suburbs, highways, and the waterfront. O’Grady noted she wanted to work in a community with a waterfront similar to Newport.

“It has a little bit of everything,” O’Grady said. “The biggest thing is it has everything, so there are many different challenges.”

On her first week on the job, O’Grady said she is focusing on getting up to speed on the variety of projects and development plans that she will handle. She attended the Planning Board’s January 7 meeting, and attended her first town director’s meeting Monday as well.

“It’s a perfect opportunity for me to come in and learn about the town,” O’Grady said.

It’s an especially exciting time due to Dartmouth’s changing administration. Dartmouth has a new Town Administrator, and other departments are seeing new hires too.

“It’s a clean start to work with a new administration,” O’Grady said. “There’s the new town administrator and all the new people coming in. You usually don’t get an opportunity to do something like that.”