Erving town planner to leave in March

By LIESEL NYGARD

For The Recorder

Published: 02-06-2024 4:49 PM

ERVING — Mariah Kurtz never thought she’d work a government job after graduating from college.

Having just obtained her bachelor’s degree in sustainable community development at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Kurtz was searching for a local, stable job. That’s when she stumbled upon a position in Erving as assistant town planner.

“I figured, ‘What the heck, I’ll give this a shot,’” Kurtz recalled. “And I ended up being really, really happily surprised with just how much we’ve been able to get done and the people and the product. … It definitely was not boring. It was really fun and exciting.”

At 25 years old, Kurtz began as an assistant town planner in 2020 and was promoted last October to town planner. She was the first person to take on these roles for Erving and has been committed to the position for four years. But on March 1, she plans to step down from the role.

Although she’s leaving as town planner, Kurtz will still be local, working remotely in Greenfield for her new consulting firm, Kurtz Consulting. She’ll offer planning, grant writing and consulting work “with a focus on helping small towns, small businesses [and] small nonprofits,” while also working to find funding to complete their projects.

“I’m hoping that will give me the flexibility to be able to travel,” Kurtz said. “It’s always hard with a regular job to be able to travel, and I’ve got family and friends all over the country, in the world, who I’d really like to see.”

Kurtz chose to start her own business after working closely with Erving and other small-town businesses and nonprofits. She said she feels that such areas “don’t need a huge company to come in and pay a lot of money to write grants or help them with strategic planning.” Rather, they “need someone who knows the system the way it works and have some experience and can really help guide them through that process.”

“I really want to be a more accessible version of that where I can help those organizations,” she said. “There can be a lot of effort that goes into growing from a small business to a medium-size business.”

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Kurtz said the Selectboard is handling the process of hiring her replacement.

Throughout the years, Kurtz has offered staff support to Erving’s Conservation Commission and Planning Board. She’s also been a part of the town’s Senior Housing Committee that has been involved in bringing forward a $15.6 million senior housing proposal to build 26 units of housing on Care Drive, and she was chair of the Public Works Dry Storage and Office Space Feasibility Committee.

Some highlights of Kurtz’s career includes working during the COVID-19 pandemic, where she made sure to offer support to Erving’s committees. She’s also worked with town officials in an effort to chart out a future for the long-vacant International Paper Mill property and recently, she’s been working closely with the Historic Commission on a property survey grant.

“The nerdy part of me really likes the infrastructure projects, the culverts and the roads and the drainage and those kinds of things,” Kurtz said. “But then I balance it out with public art projects.”

For instance, the town is participating in “Making it Public,” a selective annual program that provided Erving with $15,000 and educates town officials on the public art procurement process.

Last year, Kurtz and Erving Public Library Director Abigail Baines took the training. They intend to install a natural materials sculpture created by a local artist in front of the library by June 1.

“I’m excited to hand over [this project] to someone new,” Kurtz said, “but also I will miss being a part of it.”