Bedford’s new conservation administrator says she is passionate about the natural environment and is excited about the prospects of interacting with the public.
Rachel Kelly of Melrose began her duties in Town Hall’s code enforcement suite early this month.
Kelly succeeds Elizabeth Bagdonas, who retired seven months ago after almost 30 years in the position. Kelly’s first meeting with the Conservation Commission is scheduled for October 21.
The new administrator grew up in Westford, where “I always had horses, and actually did a lot of riding in Bedford. I was always the kid out in the woods behind our house, where there was a little pond and a stream. It was a place I enjoyed and had fun and carried over into adulthood – the natural landscape and the value that it has.”
Kelly earned her undergraduate degree at Westfield State College in geography and regional planning, with a minor concentration in communication. After receiving a master’s degree in public policy from Tufts University, she took a regional planning position near Manchester, NH.
Her next position was as conservation agent and green infrastructure planner for the city of Somerville. Her subsequent position, before coming to Bedford, was conservation agent and sustainability planner in Everett. Her responsibilities included monthly site inspections at the Encore casino, from groundbreaking to completion.
“I do enjoy working with the public,” Kelly declared. “I have always liked working with various projects that result in positive changes, and helping the residents of towns or cities, big or small.” She added that she is gratified by influencing a project that delivers long-term benefits.
Kelly acknowledged the contrast between her most recent professional environments – Everett and Somerville – and Bedford. “It was a verry different landscape with different projects, like Assembly Square or the casino or ‘smaller’ properties such as Exxon/Mobil,” she said.
“I have seen some really large-scale projects, but the foundation is all the same: you want to protect the environment and make sure nothing happens to these really delicate spaces,” she continues. “I am definitely looking forward to the new landscape, and learning more about residential projects and helping residents move them forward while protecting the wetlands.”
Adrienne St. John, the engineer in the Department of Public Works, has been an invaluable resource in visiting and learning about ongoing projects like the Fawn Lake restoration, Kelly said. “I look forward to doing some site walks and getting out in the neighborhoods.” Stephanie Ide, the departmental assistant, has also been a great resource, she said.
The new administrator is also diving into the reading and research of the local bylaws that will help her familiarize, and interacting with other town officials and departments. She said she is looking forward to meeting the members of the Trails Committee, which works with the Conservation Commission. “Having walking trails is such a great asset,” she declared.
“The biggest challenge in any town or city is enforcing regulations while still being able to work with residents, helping the understand that the rules are part of the big picture,” Kelly commented. “They need to be enforced because they are protecting our environment, managing flooding, erosion, groundwater quality.”
“It can be an inconvenience, but the environment is bigger than any individual, If we don’t protect it we might not get it back.”
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763
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