NORTH BERWICK — A member of the Hussey family is taking a new leadership role at Hussey Seating Co., the business announced Wednesday.

Letitia Hussey Beauregard takes over as board chair for the company, which is one of the state’s longest-running family businesses, having been founded by William Hussey 181 years ago.

Other leadership changes include installing Gary Merrill as president and CEO, and Sean O’Leary as vice president of sales and marketing.

These changes fill leadership vacancies created by the recent passing of board chair, president and CEO Timothy Hussey on June 15, and the retirement of longtime vice president of sales and marketing, Jack Rogers.

The election of Hussey Beauregard as board chair signals the Hussey family’s commitment to maintaining the structure of the business as a family-owned enterprise, according to a press release.

A member of the sixth generation of continuous Hussey family ownership, she is a founding member, board member and director of the personal trust for Family Capital Trust Co. in Massachusetts. She has been a member of the Hussey Board of Directors since 2012.

“Tim’s loss is huge and a challenge, no doubt, but this company has a 181-year history of turning challenges into opportunities,” said Hussey Beauregard in a company statement. “The Hussey family is absolutely committed to seeing this business succeed into the next generation of family ownership, and has every confidence in Gary and the rest of the management team to make that happen.”

Formerly chief operating officer and chief financial officer of the company, Merrill is the first person outside the Hussey family to lead the company’s day-to-day operations. A Hussey employee for over 25 years, he was elected president and chief executive officer in June.

Merrill is a University of Maine graduate with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and received his master’s degree from Babson College. He earned his CPA while working for Pricewaterhouse-Coopers LLC in Portland.

O’Leary will replace Rogers, who announced his retirement in early 2015 but continues to consult with the company on a regular basis as ex officio director of strategy.

O’Leary graduated from the University of Maine with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, and received his master’s degree from the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire.

From 1995 through 2004, O’Leary held several roles within the organization. He left the company for over 10 years, but continued working in the construction and building products industry. O’Leary returned to Hussey Seating in 2015 as director of major project sales before being named vice president of sales and marketing in April.

“Sean and I are honored to succeed such influential members of the Hussey Seating team. Combined, Jack and Tim had over 75 years of experience,” said Merrill in a prepared statement. “We know that losing them leaves a void of leadership and institutional knowledge, but they have prepared the company well for this transition. The leadership team in North Berwick as a whole is deeply experienced and comprised of longtime Hussey Seating employees with a wealth of industry knowledge.”

“We will maintain the Hussey family values of operating with honesty and integrity while we’re in it for the long run,” he said.

The company was founded in 1835 as the Hussey Plow Co. by North Berwick native and farmer William Hussey, and manufactured plows after designing a more efficient plow blade.

A fire at the plow factory in 1895 nearly ended the business, but William’s grandsons rebuilt the company and changed the focus, concentrating on the creation of steel fire escapes, bridge supports, ski lifts and more.

In 1931, Philip Hussey came up with a design for portable bleachers for outdoor use. When the escalation of new school and gymnasium construction began in the 1950s, he adapted his bleachers for indoor use.

Since then, the company has focused on adapting and improving the design of the seating it manufactures for the sports and entertainment, education, and worship markets, which it sells locally, nationally and internationally.

Hussey’s range of seating includes fixed polymer and upholstered chairs, telescopic platforms, telescopic gym seating (traditionally known as bleachers), portable spectator seating and multi-purpose seating and table solutions.

— Associate Editor Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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