New CEO glad to return to small town
By Dawn De Busk
NAPLES – The newly hired code enforcement officer has decades of experience under her belt, and ample enthusiasm about being of service to residents who take on construction and home improvement projects.
Renee Carter expressed satisfaction not only about landing the CEO position, but also about having the opportunity to again work in a small community.
“In a small town like Naples people are more close-knit. They are active in the community. They feel like they are able to make a difference. They feel like they still have a voice here,” Carter said.
“I am looking forward to working in Naples. I wanted to come back to a smaller town,” she said.
Previously, for 13 years, Carter worked in the code enforcement department in Windham. Prior to that job, she served the towns of Gray and Harrison. In 1995, she made the move from Harrison to Gray because she wanted to gain the experience of working in a slightly bigger community.
For the record books, Carter claims the honor of being among the first female CEOs in the State of Maine.
In 1989, she was an employee with the Town of Harrison, where she has resided for 37 years. At that time, the state mandated that each municipality have its own code enforcement officer. At first, the town managers stepped forward to assume the role and responsibilities. However, that was later considered a conflict of interest.
So, Carter studied for the state test and passed it. Ever since that time, the career change has provided plenty of learning experiences – no matter what size the town’s population.
One thing she plans to bring to Naples from her time in Windham: Seminars for both licensed contractors and local homeowners.
“In Windham, I held a forum on the Shoreland Zoning Ordinances. It was shoreland zoning 101 – the basics. It gave people a chance to understand why the state has protected shore frontage, and ask questions,” she said.
“It was supposed to be an hour long. It lasted for two hours,” she said.
“In Naples, I will be holding many seminars for builders, for contractors and for homeowners,” she said.
Providing information on ordinances is more palatable “if people understand why. It’s easier if someone down to earth tells them why, and not someone from the state saying, ‘This is the rule,’ ” Carter explained.
“Regulations are hard, really hard. No one likes to be told what to do, or what not to do,” she said.
Carter added people won’t have to attend a building codes forum to gain her ear. “My door will always be open,” she said.
Finding out the needs of residents and finding solutions is a major factor in Carter’s job satisfaction.
“In dealing with this stuff on a day-to-day basis,” Carter did site walks of people’s houses located on small lots, where additional construction was prohibited because of ordinance dealing with setbacks.
“I discovered people were storing gasoline and lawn mowers in their basements during the winter,” she said.
“I said, ‘This is ridiculous.’ And, I wrote the state law allowing an 8 by 10 foot shed on those properties,” she said.
“The law allows people to get the stuff out of basement, and to make sure their family is safe,” Carter said.
“That is the type of thing I am looking for: What can we do to help the homeowners?” she said.
In September, Carter was selected to step into the CEO position, which will be vacated by Boni Rickett later this month. Carter also serves as one of the directors on Maine Building Officials and Inspectors Association (MBOIA).
Next week, Carter begins training under Rickett to take over the Naples’ department.
“Naples is a wonderful little place,” Carter said.
“I am so excited to be working for the Town of Naples, and the townspeople,” she said.
She views a major role of the CEO as “guiding people through the ordinances.”
“We are the eyes and the ears for the town, and we are also the eyes and the ears for contractors,” she said, adding by contractors she meant plumbers and electricians, and those people doing their own home plumbing and/or electrical wiring.
“I just want to be here to help people,” Carter said.