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Friday, January 6, 2012

Linda Bush to retire - Wallingford town planner since 1983 was sometimes controversial

As published in the Record Journal Wednesday January 4, 2012

By Mary Ellen Godin

— The town’s no-nonsense town planner — who is isn’t afraid to butt heads with developers, zoning violators and town officials — is retiring after 28 years on the job.

Linda A. Bush said Tuesday that she is ready to return to her native Massachusetts to help care for her elderly father and stepmother, care for birds and resume traveling. She has been town planner since 1983.

“Now I can spend more time with my hobbies,” Bush said with a chuckle.

Bush, 60, has received praise for her work in creating the town’s interchange zone, which helped spur economic development, her work overseeing Route 5 expansion and more recently as a pioneer on housing incentive zones — or worker housing — along the planned commuter rail line.

“I have always had a very positive relationship with Linda,” said Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman James Seichter. “She is very knowledgeable, dedicated and diligent; she’s a very valuable employee of the town.”

Seichter praised Bush’s skill at creating regulations that fostered healthy economic growth in the town’s industrial parks and along Route 5 when he first joined the commission in the mid-1990s.

“That was a very positive step the town took,” Seichter said. “I’m sure Linda was the point person.”

After graduating from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in zoology, Bush quickly learned that teaching high school and middle school students wasn’t for her. She
went to graduate school at Antioch University’s New England Graduate School in Keene, N.H., where she received a master’s degree in resource management. While in school, she supported herself as a bartender.

“It was the best job I ever had,” Bush said.

She completed an internship at a regional planning agency in Keene and discovered she enjoyed the work. She worked as a planner for the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Council, based in Lebanon, N.H. She later got a full-time planning job in Watertown, N.Y., as a state employee assisting up to 18 communities in Oneida County but returned to her hometown of Westfield, Mass., after the death of her mother. Her sister, who lived in Meriden at the time, found the Wallingford town planner vacancy.

Bush applied and was hired by former Mayor Rocco J. Vumbaco. During her tenure, she’s been faced with routine and controversial applications, including a large horse track in the North Farms Road area, later auto auction, and more recently a disputed mosque on the east side.

The first few years were a challenge. Bush was hired to replace a planning coordinator and aide who had been fired for failing to report alleged conflicts of interest.

“The office was a mess,” Bush said. “It took a lot of time, but we returned it to professionalism and respect. We get compliments all the time from people who come to our counter. I’m straightforward and these are the rules.”

“Everybody has their own opinions,” Seichter said. “When you are someone who has to enforce the regulations, sometimes when you tell people ‘No,’ they take it personally.”

Joan Molloy, a local attorney who represents developers, said she and Bush didn’t always agree on everything, but she always knew where Bush stood. She said Bush’s departure is the town’s loss.

“I always felt I could discuss an application or the possibility of an application and she would respond,” Molloy said. “We treated each other as professionals. I always felt there was an honest discussion.”

Bush has been criticized for being prickly with the people she works with and was suspended for a week last year on a harassment complaint.

“There are different standards for different people in town,” Bush said about the suspension. “And the town can’t say otherwise.”

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Bush said the next town planner will have to pay attention to the impact commuter rail is expected to have on the town and in updating the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development.

“I wished we had the incentive housing zone in place,” Bush said. “I hope we have something in place soon, so we don’t miss the opportunity created by the commuter rail.”

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see her go. She was always a hinderance to honest hard working businesses with her nitpicking ways of trying to find even a minor issue and blow it out of proportion. Good riddance to her and her self ritcheousnesss.
    I hope she has fun caring for her birds and hopefully one will poop on her head.
    Basically my opinion is she sucked for all those years and the City of Wallingford will be better for businesses with her out of here - bye bye Bush!!
    From a honest hardworking businessman.