Ruger. Courtesy of Emily Ruger.

BRUNSWICK — Emily Ruger has been hired as Brunswick’s first grant writer and economic development specialist, a role created earlier this fall to help spur new funding and growth opportunities for the town. 

The position is split, with a dual focus on grant writing and assisting Sally Costello, the economic and community development director and sole member of her department. 

“I’ve been looking to get into municipal work for a while, so this is a dream job for me,” Ruger said. 

She is currently working as the director of philanthropy for the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine, where she recently helped secure a $500,000 Brownfields Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help clean up hazardous materials from a 1.12-acre parcel at Thompson’s Point that will soon be the museum’s new home. 

The efforts helped transform the “dirty piece of property into one children could play on” and helped make a difference in the community, she said. 

But after four years at the children’s museum, Ruger is ready to “work and serve a community outside of the big city.” 

A Camden native, Ruger feels at home in Brunswick with fond memories of going to Frontier for lunch or shopping at the Nest downtown. 

“It’s a really special place,” she said, adding that she’s eager to help local businesses leverage more opportunities for growth and development. 

Additional funding for the community is now more important than ever, as Brunswick struggles to recover from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“All communities are struggling so much right now,” Ruger said, but “especially small Maine coastal communities hard hit by the lack of tourism.”  

Town Manager John Eldridge said Ruger’s comprehensive understanding of project management and grant writing, coupled with her good rapport with the interview team helped her stand out from a strong pool of applicants. 

Six people were interviewed and there were four finalists for the position. All had significant strengths and any one of them could have done the job well, but Ruger’s grant writing experience, manner, presentation and knowledge “really stood out,” he said. 

“From a grant perspective, we’re hoping she will be able to look at opportunities beyond traditional government type programs and find opportunities that will benefit some of our partners like the Brunswick Downtown Association, the library and People Plus,” he said. 

He also helps he will be able to help move forward some of the larger projects that Costello has been working on. For example, she is planning a facelift for Cook’s Corner that she and other town officials hope will not only keep pace with but also bolster more development in the town’s commercial sector, creating a “sense of place.” 

This is work that Ruger is ready to help with.

“Placemaking is a hot topic in economic development work right now,” she said, and there are grants available that combine arts with economic development that she thinks might be a good fit for Brunswick.

Former town councilor Toby McGrath was the first to float the idea of a grant writer in Brunswick and councilors approved the creation of the roll in September.

At the time, Councilor Steve Walker said grants have been a strong source of funding for the community in the past but that in recent years “we haven’t taken advantage of them.”

Councilor Dan Jenkins agreed and called the move a “win for the town” that will “pay for itself tenfold over time.”

The $70,000 position is funded by the revenue captured by the Cooks Corner tax increment financing district. Tax increment financing is a tool municipalities use to capture tax revenue in designated areas of town that are likely to see development. That money can be used for special projects, often within that district. 

For her part, Ruger is excited to “jump on board, get my hands dirty and find out what the needs are.” 

She starts Dec. 2.

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