PORTLAND — Acting Corporation Counsel Danielle West-Chuhta has been tapped to be the city’s full-time top lawyer. She will be the first woman to hold the post, the city said in a press release Tuesday.
West-Chuhta, 34, joined the city’s legal department as an associate corporation counsel in 2008. She was appointed acting corporation counsel when Gary Wood retired last fall.
“Danielle’s experience and understanding of local government made her the natural choice for corporation counsel,” Mayor Michael Brennan said in a written statement.
“Her unflappable demeanor is often needed when dealing with complex and sometimes controversial legal issues,” he added. “She understands the city and the community and I am confident that the city’s legal team will benefit from her leadership.”
As corporation counsel, West-Chuhta will provide legal advice to city staff, the City Council, the mayor and other municipal boards and committees.
The position is one of three that is directly overseen by the City Council, which appointed the search committee that recommended West-Chuhta. The city manager and the city clerk also report directly to the council. The council will take up the nomination at its next meeting – Jan. 23.
West-Chuta said she is “deeply humbled” to be the first woman to serve as Portland’s corporation counsel – a milestone first mentioned to her by Wood when he recommended she serve as acting counsel.
“Reflecting on it more now, it is a distinction and an honor,” she said. “I’m just really excited and happy to be in this position and be able to represent the city in this capacity.”
City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said the search for Wood’s replacement was conducted by the city’s human resources department and cost only $800.
The search focused on Maine lawyers, said Clegg. The city received 10 applications for the position, she said.
“Unlike some other high-level positions where skills easily translate from one state to another, the city’s corporation counsel needs to have a specific expertise in Maine and municipal law,” Clegg said.
Prior to joining the city, West-Chuhta focused on municipal law, land-use law and litigation at Bergen & Parkinson in Kennebunk. She also worked as a law clerk for the Maine Superior Court after graduating from the University of Maine School of Law.
She lives in Portland with her husband, Dan, and two young children, first-grader Jacob and 2-year-old Abigail.
West-Chuhta previously earned an annual salary of $85,371. She will make $105,000 in her new post.
Staff Writer Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at: