Thursday September 20, 2012

The departure of Pittsfield Commu nity Development Director Deanna L. Ruffer shouldn’t pass without notice. Ms. Ruffer, who took a similar job earlier this month in Chatham on Cape Cod, played a critical role in the renaissance of downtown and in other important projects in the city during her eight-year tenure.

Ms. Ruffer’s signature talent was in securing state and federal grant money, which as Mayor Daniel Bianchi said in Wednesday’s Eagle, is "key to economic development." The process involves negotiating complex bureaucracies, and the Byzantine and ultimately successful financial plan for funding of the Beacon Cinema on North Street is a tribute in large degree to the efforts of Ms. Ruffer.

Along with former Mayor James Ruberto and many others in the public and private sectors, Ms. Ruffer was instrumental in putting together a funding package for the restoration of the Colonial Theatre, as well as the initial restoration of the First Street Common and the redevelopment of the former Rice Silk Mill on Spring Street into an apartment complex. Pittsfield received more than $22 million in grants under her direction, a good bargain for her annual salary of $73,000.

Ms. Ruffer stepped on a few toes in her tenure as community development director, but getting something accomplished in Pittsfield often requires pushing back against the forces of stagnation and the status quo.


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Relentless and determined, she was no diplomat and didn’t pretend to be one, and a few bruised toes are a small price to pay for the progress made in Pittsfield during her years here.

An ad hoc city committee is currently reviewing 11 applications for the director of community development position, and will recommend three finalists to be interviewed by Mayor Bianchi. The new director will have a tough act to follow.