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Ret. Navy Capt. Paul Whitescarver named director of seCTer

The Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region board of directors announced Friday it has unanimously selected retired Navy Capt. Paul Whitescarver to serve as executive director of seCTer, effective Monday. Whitescarver is the former commanding officer of the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.

Nancy Cowser had served as executive director of seCTer from late 2016 through June 30 of this year, when she left for a role at Mitchell College.

SeCTer is the region's designated nonprofit economic development organization, and its services include giving loans to small businesses, providing assistance to businesses interested in selling goods or services to government entities, and connecting developers with potential sites.

"What really appealed to me is the ability to work with all the municipalities, creating somewhat of a regional strategy," Whitescarver said.

He said Mark Oefinger, chairman of the seCTer board, approached him and ask if he'd be interested in the role, and then he went through the hiring process.

Oefinger was Groton town manager when Whitescarver took over command of the sub base in 2015, and the two have served together on the Thames River Heritage Park board, of which Whitescarver is president.

Oefinger said he hadn't initially thought of Whitescarver early in the search, but then thought back to times he teasingly asked Whitescarver what he wanted to be when he grew up, which came back to public service.

He said Whitescarver "was exceptional to work with" as commanding officer, and would ask what the sub base could do for the surrounding communities rather than the other way around.

Whitescarver retired from the Navy in 2019 and was relieved as commanding officer by Capt. Todd Moore, who last week passed command of the sub base to Capt. Kenneth Curtin.

Whitescarver, 59, after retiring from the Navy, served as a consultant for the Connecticut Port Authority for five months and then worked as operations manager for King Industries, a chemical additive manufacturer based in Norwalk.

In his new role, Whitescarver said he looks forward to working with clients and partners to address the economic impacts of the pandemic and diversify the region's economy. His focus in the coming year will be on helping southeastern Connecticut secure state and federal recovery dollars, and completing the update of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, a five-year plan.

Oefinger said Whitescarver and his staff "will be very, very busy," and that seCTer will have to sign off on millions of dollars in funding. Oefinger said he has been involved in seCTer and its predecessor agencies since the mid-1980s and has "never seen this amount of funding being made available to do economic development types of things."

Oefinger said Whitescarver's salary will be $152,000, and that seCTer has a total of nine full-time employees, one part-time employee and two vacancies. Whitescarver lives in Gales Ferry with his wife, Katie, and also serves on the board of the Submarine Force Museum and USS Groton Sail Foundation.

"I couldn't be happier," Oefinger said. "I think he's going to do great things at seCTer. He knows the region, he knows the players, he's worked in the federal government."

e.moser@theday.com

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