After 24 years working to promote business and community growth in Newtown, Director of Community and Economic Development Elizabeth Stocker has accepted a new position heading up the Norwalk Economic Development Agency. Her last day on the job locally will be August 8.
On July 15, the same day she tendered her resignation to First Selectman Pat Llodra, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling announced Ms Stocker would be taking over as that city’s economic development director.
“After an extensive six-month search, I am pleased to present Ms Stocker’s name to the Redevelopment Agency for their approval. My Business Advisory Council has worked closely with Tim Sheehan, our redevelopment director, to narrow the search to a perfect candidate,” said Mayor Rilling.
More than 50 candidates applied and showed great interest in Norwalk according to the mayor. The position generated applications from within Fairfield County and as far away as Texas, Colorado, and Nevada.
“I am confident that in Ms Stocker, we have chosen a great fit for Norwalk,” Mayor Rilling added. “Her experience and training make her highly qualified for this position. I am sure she will hit the ground running.”
Earlier in her career Ms Stocker was an assistant planner in Norwalk. She is currently serving her second term as president of the Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS). She was also previously a planning aid for the City of Hamden.
Ms Stocker, a Milford resident, has played a key role guiding Newtown’s economic and community development activities with grant administration, managing marketing strategies, and redevelopment activities. She was responsible for business attraction, retention, and expansion, working directly with businesses and town leaders.
In recent years, she was instrumental attracting Advance Fusion Systems to occupy a 211,000-square-foot industrial site where 200 new jobs will be created, assisting Hunter Gregory LLC with a business incentive that will result in the construction of a new 26,000-square-foot medical services facility, managing a $1.1 million streetscape project in Sandy Hook Village, a $500,000 business assistance grant, and three EPA cleanup grants for the Fairfield Hills Campus.
Ms Stocker also assisted the municipal financial authority during bond rating interviews after which resulted in the town maintaining its Moody’s Aa1 rating, and achieving a AAA rating from Standard & Poor’s. She successfully managed a village revitalization process in Sandy Hook that resulted in lowered vacancies, increased property values, and leveraged public-private investments.
During her tenure Ms Stocker assisted dozens of companies who constructed more than 1.75 million square feet of commercial and industrial space in Newtown, and managed 25-plus grant projects valued more than $6.98 million.
Her list of achievements was not lost on Mrs Llodra, who expressed regret about losing her expertise, but at the same time celebrated the new chapter in Ms Stocker’s professional life.
“We worked very well together,” Ms Llodra said. “During my years in elected office, Elizabeth really moved the needle significantly in terms of local economic development initiatives. Her 24 years of service came with a lot of value added in immeasurable ways.”
Mrs Llodra said Ms Stocker will now have an opportunity to exercise her talents, as well as talents she may not have had the opportunity to apply in Newtown.
“Now she will be doing slightly different work, applying her skills with a development authority,” Mrs Llodra said. “Now she will be able to forward those skills in a new market, and at a level of compensation that is commensurate with those skills.”
The first selectman said Ms Stocker’s departure comes as she is completing a number of critical projects, and praised her colleague for remaining on the job locally even when other job offers previously came her way.
“She has been exposed to other opportunities recently, but Elizabeth chose not to leave,” Mrs Llodra said. “We know where we stand on all the projects she has been involved with.”
Mrs Llodra said that the vacancy will also provide an opportunity for the town to “step back and examine our administrative structure” in the economic development area.
That sentiment was echoed by Land Use Director George Benson.
“In any situation where you have a departure of an experienced manager, you have a chance to look at the office, and if appropriate, maybe reevaluate the [job description] and the scope of that person’s responsibilities,” Mr Benson said. “Maybe this will provide a way to create even greater efficiencies.”
Mr Benson said the Sandy Hook Streetscape Project will likely stand as Ms Stocker’s legacy in the community.
“The streetscape was an ongoing project she continuously championed over the years,” he said. “She was also instrumental in supporting town planning, new development, and she certainly was responsible for bringing a lot of grant money to the town from both state and federal programs.”
Public Works Director Fred Hurley also pegged the role she played in the Sandy Hook Streetscape program as one of Ms Stocker’s most important achievements.
“She tied together a lot of different parties to accomplish what she did in Sandy Hook,” Mr Hurley said. “But she also did a lot to help support new and established businesses, which was something a lot of people didn’t see.”
The public works chief singled out Advanced Fusion Systems among the companies Ms Stocker assisted, in both its establishment in Newtown as well as its successful application under the town’s Business Incentive Plan.
“That one company is bringing tens of millions in investments to the community, with the potential for millions more in the future,” Mr Hurley said. “You know Elizabeth came to Newtown the year after I did, and I wish her well in her new position.”
Betsy Paynter said she learned much from Ms Stocker during a relatively short two years they worked together supporting the Economic Development Commission.
“I came from a marketing background, so most of what I learned about economic and community development came from Elizabeth,” she said. “I learned so much from her; she’s been a great mentor.”