An Aroostook County native who has held a variety of positions in education in that region is the new principal at Belfast Area High School.

Stephen Fitzpatrick, the former superintendent of MSAD 29 in southern Aroostook County, was unanimously approved by the Regional School Unit 20 Board of Directors July 27 to fill a vacancy left by longtime BAHS Principal Butch Arthers, who resigned in June to take a job at a private academy in Lee.

Fitzpatrick, 55, was one of 14 applicants for the position. RSU 20 Superintendent Bruce Mailloux said Fitzpatrick was the unanimous selection of the search committee, and board member Chris Krause said the personnel committee had met July 27 just before the board meeting and had similarly given a unanimous endorsement.

For the past six years, Fitzpatrick has served as the superintendent of the school district that includes the towns of Houlton, Hammond, Littleton and Monticello. He resigned at the end of June.

Previously, he was employed at Hodgdon High School, in nearby MSAD 70, where he served as principal from 1994 to 2004, assistant principal from 1990-94, and worked as a teacher, coach and athletic director for a period of nine years in the 1980s and early ’90s. Fitzpatrick said he had coached both basketball and soccer, and added that he had played basketball in college.

“[Basketball] is the sport I love the most,” he said.

Fitzpatrick started his administrative career at Central Aroostook Junior-Senior High School in Mars Hill, where he served as principal and athletic director for three years.

“He’s well grounded,” said Mailloux, regarding Fitzpatrick. “He’s got a lot of experience in administration. He’s definitely student-focused; he’s not shy about that. He’s a listener. He’ll listen and evaluate and do his research before he makes a decision.”

Mailloux said Fitzpatrick also has a sense of humor. “Not that that’s a prerequisite,” he said, “but it’s nice.”

Fitzpatrick, who currently lives in Linneus, said he was drawn to the position in Belfast in part to be closer to the homes of his three children — all have graduated from college and now live in Bangor, Lewiston and North Yarmouth — and grandchildren. Fitzpatrick said he had also enjoyed being a principal more than being a superintendent.

Asked about his approach to academics, Fitzpatrick indicated a preference for tactile, or hands-on, learning.

“I know that in our area [southern Aroostook County], and I think it’s similar in Belfast, as well, there are a lot of students who go into vocational education and the trades.” he said.

Fitzpatrick said he tried “to put forth a philosophy of meeting all students’ needs in whatever they endeavor to do.”

Fitzpatrick said he grew up in Houlton and after high school attended the University of Maine, graduating in 1977.

The new principal said he was looking forward to working with staff at the school and working to support the mission of the school system. Fitzpatrick said he had heard a lot of positive things about the staff at the high school.

“I want to learn the cultural and programming needs [of the school],” he said. “I do not know all the answers. It’s not going to be the gospel according to me.”

Asked by the board what he enjoyed doing in his free time, Fitzpatrick said he enjoyed hunting and fishing. He has an Irish Setter and an English Setter, and said he hoped to find a place to live in the Belfast area where they could have space to run.

Additional reporting by Steve Fuller.