After just two years as the chief administrative officer of the picturesque town along the St. John River in New Brunswick, David Hutten and his family will soon head to the picturesque ocean-side community in Nova Scotia.
Hutten tendered his resignation, effective Aug. 12, in Hartland after accepting a job of CAO with the Municipality of the District of St. Mary's.
"Time was right when this opportunity came up," he said.
Hutten said the location of the job offer proved one of its great attractions, fulfilling his family's long-held dream to live near the ocean. He said St. Mary's is a large district made up of several small towns, with Sherbrooke the largest. He said the district, situated near Antigonish and border Guysborough County, covers a larger population and a much larger area than Hartland.
While Hutten's term in Hartland lasted only two years, the majority of which included the COVID-19 pandemic, both he and newly elected Mayor Tracey DeMerchant believe he left the small town in better shape than when he arrived.
DeMerchant, who served on Hartland council during Hutten's two years as CAO, said he brought vision, ideas and strategies to the post.
"It was just such a different perspective we had from him because he's well-travelled and had so many different positions within so many different roles," she said. "I'm really going to miss him and his family and the impact he's had."
Hutten expressed pride in his contributions to the Covered Bridge Community during his brief stay.
"Something I can say with confidence is we're definitely leaving this place in better shape in terms of town hall and organization and readiness to take the future challenges," he said. "There's a really good council here, so it's a great time for a transition."
Hutten cites downtown improvements, including the washrooms and parking space along the famous covered bridge, infrastructure and street upgrades, long-term planning, and securing funding for the Central Carleton Community Complex projects as significant accomplishments from his office at Hartland town hall.
Hutten called it an honour to work with the committee during the final push for the complex funding.
"I wish all success to the committee which did a lot of work for a lot of years," he said.
He acknowledged mixed feelings about not being on hand to watch the long-awaited recreation and community complex construction begin and end.
"Hopefully, the next time I drive up the Trans-Canada, I can pop across the longest covered bridge and see that facility standing there," he said.
Hutten said he discovered upon his arrival a remarkable level of civic pride in the small town. He said area residents and the business community were always ready with time and financial contributions. With a population base of barely 1,000 people, he said, the town flourishes thanks to business and industry.
"Hartland packs a punch bigger than it should just because of the industrial park and the members that are there with their strong international and national presence," he said.
He said many of the town's large businesses have strong roots in the community and are ready to step forward whenever needed.
Hutten said his fond memories of Hartland would be working with the business community and residents.
"I love how a lot of people have seen opportunities and have taken on initiatives," he said.
DeMerchant said members of the newly elected council took office, looking forward to working with Hutten. They recognize the outgoing CAO leaves big shoes to fill at town hall.
"It's a huge position. It's going to take someone as special as David to fill it," she said.
DeMerchant said they hope to find a new CAO who will offer "a different flavour" and bring something different to the table and share the vision Hutten shared with council members, staff and residents.
The mayor said the ads went out for the new CAO and will be closing before the end of July. She expects a lot of interest in the job, noting when the town hired Hutten, it received applications from around the world.
DeMerchant echoed Hutten when listing his many accomplishments as CAO, including getting the paperwork completed for the new complex, his instrumental role in the town's development and his ability to cooperate with the local business community.
DeMerchant also agreed with Hutten that the town benefits from a strong contingent of council members who will help in the CAO transition.
"This group is keen," she said. "They are extremely keen. The only difficult part may be getting them to slow down. They'd have projects done yesterday if they could."
The mayor said the council members elected in May bring a wide array of talents to the table, and she's looking to make the most of those talents and experience.
DeMerchant expressed confidence they will find the right person to replace Hutten, expecting to have a substantial list of talented applicants from which to choose. She believes the Hartland CAO position offers an appealing opportunity.
"We're small, but we're mighty," she said.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun