HARWICH — Town Planner Charleen Greenhalgh will retire in three weeks after 33 years as a public servant. She has spent 10 of those years working for the town of Harwich.
With Greenhalgh’s departure, there could be some changes coming to the planning department. Selectmen Chairman Larry Ballantine said he has been talking with Interim Town Administrator Joseph Powers about posting the position, but part of Powers’ charge includes looking at department reorganization. A major change such as this is an opportunity, Ballantine said, and Powers is looking at a community development manager/planner recommendation that he will be bringing to the board of selectmen shortly.
“I’m proud of the work I’ve done over the 33 years,” Greenhalgh said. “I’m extremely proud of working in the four different towns I’ve served on the Cape.”
Greenhalgh started as an assistant town planner and acting director of planning and community development in Chatham and then served as a town planner and grant writer in Dennis. She came to Harwich in 2000, serving as the assistant town planner until 2006, when a $2.9 million override failed and her position was cut. She came back briefly when the position was restored part-time, but then took a full-time position as town planner/assistant town administrator in Truro.
In 2015, Greenhalgh returned to Harwich as the assistant town administrator, serving in that capacity for nearly three years. When Town Planner Aly Sabatino left to take a similar position in Chatham, Greenhalgh opted to return to a position she cherished.
“I really do love planning. I liked Truro because I did both. I love what I’m doing here, but planning is my passion,” Greenhalgh told The Chronicle after making the transition back to town planner in 2018.
Greenhalgh initially planned to retire in July, but admitted she felt guilty about leaving with a couple of major zoning initiatives still outstanding. She committed to staying on through the end of November to work on the West Harwich Special District and multi-family zoning amendments. Those zoning amendments were approved in the annual town meeting in September.
“Though she is petite in physical stature, she will be leaving enormous shoes to fill in the planning department. We wish her the very best in her next phase,” Planning Board Chairman Duncan Berry said of Greenhalgh.
Technically, Greenhalgh said her last day of work is Sunday, Nov. 29, but her last day on the office will be Nov. 25. She will also be taking a few days off around Veterans Day, she said.
“I do pride myself on my work ethic,” Greenhalgh said. “But I’ve always been available to meet with the public.”
Greenhalgh said she has always been willing to work with applicants and to ensure applications filed with the planning board meet the requirements so that little had to occur in meetings other than the board having to make a decision.
She has not heard much regarding a replacement. The position has not been posted internally and it has not been advertised.
“I’ve been asked if I would come on as a consultant during transition,” Greenhalgh said. But she hasn’t heard anything since that question was posed. Berry also said he has no update available on the status of a replacement.
The West Harwich Special District, the multi-family zoning and the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Plan were among her recent accomplishments, Greenhalgh said. But, she added, “I’m not sitting around with my feet up on the desk.” She has been working on design guidelines for the West Harwich District of Critical Planning Concern, which will be a new section of the zoning bylaw if approved by town meeting in the spring.