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Town adds its first economic specialist


The morning after Westminster officials announced the hiring of a new economic development specialist, Stanley T. Ruchlewicz could be found downtown at Heinz Bakery munching on a cherry tart.

He doesn't start work officially until June 11. But the 45-year-old Reading, Pa., native wanted to wander around downtown, check out Westminster's parking problem and "get a feel for why merchants operate the way they do."

Ruchlewicz, chief of community development and project management for Havre de Grace, was selected from a field of 17 applicants for his extensive experience on the municipal and state level, said Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster's head of planning and public works.

Ruchlewicz has been president of the Maryland Downtown Development Association and on the state's Main Street Maryland review committee, the group that reviews applications from communities that want to receive a Main Street designation. He also worked as an economic development specialist in Reading.

During his 11-year tenure in Havre de Grace, Ruchlewicz established a revolving loan fund that lent $342,000 to local business owners. Among those receiving funds were the owners of a pub, an ice cream shop and a doctor who was establishing a family practice.

"His credentials were quite good," Beyard said.

Until Ruchlewicz was hired, Westminster has never had a full-time economic development specialist. In the past, the post of Main Street coordinator was a part-time job, Beyard said.

Ruchlewicz's annual salary will be about $46,000.

Downtown merchant Sandy Scott, who owns the Hickory Stick gift shop, was on the six-member committee that reviewed job applicants. Scott called Ruchlewicz's experience "incredible."

"He was everything we were hoping for," Scott said, noting Ruchlewicz's even-keel, adaptable personality. "The job was written for him practically."

He will work as the city's Main Street manager and with area businesses, provide Smart Growth support and complete economic development studies and business surveys.

Ruchlewicz said he was drawn to the Westminster job because he wanted to work in economic development full time.

"It will be a refreshing change," he said.

Ruchlewicz said that he's eager to get acquainted with the city and its business owners. He is interested in exploring how the city can better serve the needs of high school and secondary school and Western Maryland College students.

"I want to first get in there and see what's happening, what needs to happen," he said.

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