At a special meeting Tuesday, Oak Bluffs selectmen hired Elisabeth Peterman as the town’s new environmental planner and conservation agent.
A former senior planner for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Peterman has an extensive background and 30 years of experience in maintaining water quality in Rhode Island for shellfishing, permitting in wetland areas, conducting field work, grant writing, and working with multiple state and federal agencies.
Selectman Gail Barmakian said Peterman worked for Rhode Island’s equivalent of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
Town administrator Robert Whritenour said Peterman stood “head and shoulders” above the other candidates who applied for the position.
Selectmen voted 4-0 to approve Peterman’s hire. Selectman Brian Packish did not attend the meeting.
Assistant town administrator Wendy Brough said she is working with Peterman, who lives in Saunderstown, R.I., to develop a strategic plan for how Peterman will work remotely and onsite in Oak Bluffs. As the pandemic rages on, Brough said, most of Peterman’s work will be remote, but when Peterman does come into the office, she can take the Rhode Island fast ferry or make the trip to Woods Hole.
The town has not negotiated the final starting salary yet, but in an email to The Times, Brough wrote the position was posted with a $68,382 to $80,450 range commensurate with experience.
Peterman is taking over the position from former conservation agent Liz Durkee, who took a job as the climate change planner at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
Part of Peterman’s interest in the job came from wanting a better sense of community, as opposed to her former job, which had her traveling around Rhode Island.
“You want to encourage community growth, but you want to be responsible about it … but it’s a give and a take, good environmental stewardship,” she said. “You aim to protect your natural resources because once they’re gone, you can’t get them back.”