With Conard Becoming Portsmouth City Manager, Merrimack Valley Planners Seeks Applications

Merrimack Valley Planning Commission's Karen Sawyer Conard offered remarks during a Housing Choice event with Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor James J. Fiorentini in Haverhill on May 9, 2019. (WHAV News file photograph)

With its executive director taking the job of Portsmouth, N.H.’s first female town manager, the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission is seeking applicants for executive director.

Last month, the Portsmouth City Council chose Merrimack Valley Planning Commission Executive Director Karen Sawyer Conard to enter into contract negotiations to become Portsmouth’s next city manager.

Portsmouth Mayor Jack Blalock said, “The City Council is delighted to select someone with the depth of experience and strength of character that Karen commands, and see her as a very well-qualified successor to the city manager who has served Portsmouth so well for the past 22 years.”

Sawyer Conard brings to Portsmouth 28 years of experience in the public sector. She started her career working in the legislative and executive branches of state government, serving in various capacities starting with the Massachusetts State Senate, Gov. William Weld’s office, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, Massachusetts Office of Business Development and MassDevelopment, a quasi-public financing authority.

After two years as Chief operating officer for a private real estate firm, she worked 11 years as community development and planning director for the medium-sized cities of Methuen and Peabody, and is finishing her third year as executive director of the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission, one of 13 regional planning agencies in the state.

The post of executive director pays about $130,000, based on experience and qualifications. Applications are due Friday, Nov. 22, at 5 p.m. Those with questions are asked to email Bernard Lynch, principal, Community Paradigm Associates, at [email protected] or by calling 978-621-6733.

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