After a year of serious discussion, Belfast has hired its first full-time economic development director with high hopes and measured expectations.

In his manager’s report to the Council, City Manager Joe Slocum described his appointee, Thomas Kittredge, of Brewer, as a “smart, experienced, engaging and highly enthusiastic professional,” but cautioned against expecting results too quickly. “Getting an economic development director is not like a light switch. You don’t turn it on and all of a sudden jobs fall from the sky,” he said. “… It’s very much like fishing. You won’t catch any unless you go, and you can bring them right up to the boat and still lose them.”

Kittredge currently serves as executive director of the nonprofit Piscataquis County Economic Development Council. Among his accomplishments with that organization, he cited funding he helped secure for the redevelopment of the Moosehead Manufacturing plant in Dover-Foxcroft, as well as rebuilding funds he helped secure for the town of Milo after a 2008 fire destroyed the downtown.

The 33-year-old Maine native graduated from Brewer High School in 1994, did his undergraduate and graduate studies at Yale and Johns Hopkins Universities respectively, concentrating on Near Eastern studies. Kittredge said he had aspired to be a museum curator of Egyptology, but realized near the end of his studies that his heart wasn’t in it.

He moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting, and worked at a casino. While in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins, he had been cast as an extra in several episodes of HBO’s series “The Wire.” In 2006, he moved back to Maine, waited tables for a month and later served as the Eastern Maine field organizer for the Maine Senate Democratic caucus. His economic development career started with an internship in the city of Brewer’s economic development department. In April 2007, he was named executive director of PCEDC.

During the past three years, Kittredge said, he has come to realize the collaborative nature of economic development and developed working relationships with a number of the other economic development entities in the state, including Eastern Maine Development Corporation, through which his position was initially contracted.

“You can’t do it on your own,” he said. “… I tried to do it myself when I started, but that didn’t work that well.”

Addressing the Council June 1, Kittredge kept his remarks brief, saying several times simply that he is “looking forward to” working in Belfast, and offering to answer any questions, of which there were none. Later Kittredge said he was excited about the “clean slate” afforded him as Belfast’s first economic development director.

Asked what his priorities would be, Kittredge said the majority of his time would likely be spent addressing the needs of existing businesses and business retention, though he said he would also evaluate the stock of vacant commercial properties and work to bring new businesses to Belfast.

The Council approval, granted during a meeting when two councilors, Roger Lee and Eric Sanders, were absent, was a formality at the end of the six-month hiring process, during which City Manager Joe Slocum made it clear that he would return with a single recommendation.

According to Slocum, Kittredge is due to start in his new role around June 21. His starting salary will be $51,500, and he will receive standard city employee benefits, Slocum said.

On Tuesday, the Council informally resolved to ask Kittredge to appear on June 29 at one of several economic development workshops held throughout the year on the fifth Tuesday of the month.

According to Slocum, the economic development position drew approximately 25 applicants from Maine and seven from other states, including Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio and Virginia. Slocum said the applicants represented “a very broad array” of backgrounds, including nonprofit, government, business and banking sectors.

Kittredge’s standout qualities, Slocum said, included his education and work credentials and his enthusiasm.

“We interviewed some people who were very experienced who said, ‘Oh, I tried that. It didn’t work,'” Slocum said. “I’d rather have someone who’s willing to try something. … I want someone who’s innovative and creative, and Thomas is innovative and creative.”

Asked about their priorities for the new director, the three city councilors had many ideas, though each offered them with a measure of wait-and-see. Councilor Lewis Baker said his interest continued to be in retail development, specifically bringing a wider array of affordable merchandise to the area. Baker led several efforts to bring large retailers Wal-Mart and Lowe’s to Belfast during the past 10 years. Beyond retail, Baker said he hoped the economic development director would, among other things, bring jobs to Belfast.

“Who knows what’s out there that he can find?” he said. “I hope he finds something.”

Councilor Marina Delune raised the potential of getting federal and state grant money for the city. Other possibilities she mentioned included the opening of a food storage facility or a business incubator, attracting new businesses to the area and addressing the needs of existing businesses.

Councilor Mike Hurley said a good economic development director would earn his salary in the benefits he brought to the city.

“We’ve got a lot we can do,” he said.