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James Butler plans to retire as executive director of Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments

Norwich — The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments’ longtime executive director, James S. Butler, has announced he plans to retire July 1, but will stay on part time as a senior advisor.

Deputy Director/Director of Special Projects Amanda Kennedy, who began working for the council six years ago, will step into the leadership role when Butler retires.

The council of governments unanimously approved the plan at Wednesday’s meeting.

“Your leadership, Jim, has been tremendous and will continue to be tremendous as I know going to July 1, and then even beyond as senior advisor, so a huge thank you from all of us, and we really appreciate what you’ve done and continue to do,” said the council’s chairman, Fred Allyn III, who is the mayor of Ledyard.

Salem First Selectman Kevin Lyden said Butler “has done a phenomenal job and assembled a very, very good staff.” Lyden stressed that the council of governments has “done more regionalization in a state that doesn’t want to regionalize anything” and noted Butler’s role in helping the council with regionalization and regional-sharing initiatives.

The council of governments, with membership from 22 municipalities, focuses on "regional planning, which includes producing studies and plans that affect the responsible development of the region; transportation planning and prioritization of state and federal transportation funding, as the region's Metropolitan Planning Organization; and providing regional services, which includes staffing assistance to local land use commissions and exploring additional avenues for cost savings and inter-municipal cooperation," according to its website.

Butler, who has served as executive director for the past 23 years, said it is the best job he’s ever had.

“I’ve been blessed with a great staff, and I’ve been very very fortunate to work with currently 22 chief elected officials and three managers who are just outstanding in their field and that’s been the case for all 23 years,” Butler said. “Every day I come to work I enjoy it and I can honestly say that.”

Butler, a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, was the Town of Groton's director of planning for 11 years and also has worked as East Lyme's director of planning, and as senior planner for the Southeastern Connecticut Regional Planning Agency, according to his biography. He also took on the role as interim executive director of the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region from January to August 2013, while continuing his work at the council. He also has served as the chairman of the Connecticut Association of Councils of Governments.

Butler said he can’t think of a better person to succeed him than Kennedy.

“It was very clear to us early on that she would become a leader in this organization. She’s been a leader throughout,” he said.

At the Council of Governments, Kennedy has directed the preparation of agency plans, including being the principal author of the Regional Plan of Conservation Development and the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, among other responsibilities, such as preparing grant applications and managing consultant work, according to her resume. She is the "lead staff support" for regional groups, such as the Regional Human Services Coordinating Council and the Southeastern Connecticut Housing Alliance.

Her career includes serving as associate planner and Connecticut director of Regional Plan Association and as development coordinator at Konover Properties and Shoreline Corporation. She also is an executive board member at the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association and board member at Connecticut Main Street Center.

Allyn said he knows Kennedy will do great things and that the council is "in great hands once again as we have been." 

"Thank you for being willing to step up for that and guide all of our southeastern Connecticut towns with your knowledge and your assistance," Allyn told Kennedy.

Kennedy said she's excited about her new role and thankful for Butler's confidence over the last six years. 

"I really want to make sure that we're able to continue taking advantage of opportunities as they come and adjusting to the changing needs of our towns as we’ve especially seen in the last two years," she added.

k.drelich@theday.com 

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