STRATFORD, Conn. — She may have been born in New Jersey, but Mary Dean is a Stratford girl through and through.
Having moved here when she was five, the Bunnell High School graduate went on to leadership roles with her children’s PTA and then for a stint on the Board of Education before landing a high-profile position as executive director of the Stratford Chamber of Commerce.
So it was natural that the town turned to her when it was looking for a new director of economic development.
“It was an easy transition,” said Dean, who officially took the post on Jan. 4. “It just happened.”
Dean replaces Karen Kaiser, who announced she was leaving for a new opportunity at Fairfield University in December.
Dean, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, is no stranger to the region’s development successes and challenges, having worked for the Bridgeport Chamber of Commerce just out of college.
From there she spent 17 years working for General Reinsurance, serving as a property facultative underwriter before stepping in to run the company’s brokerage operations in Stamford.
In her new post, Dean said she looking at initiatives that are already underway, including the Raymark clean-up and the re-development of the Stratford Army Engine plant.
In addition, she’s interested in seeing the proposed Exit 33 interchange come to fruition. Construction is slated to begin in 2017 and be completed by 2019, she said, noting the redesign would be key to boosting business in that area of town.
Dean would also like to pursue options for much-debated transit-oriented development (TOD) centered around the train station.
“It’s been a long debate,” said Dean, who served on a town committee looking at options as the chamber chief. “If you designate TOD, you can reach out for certain grants.”
Dean said she is proud of her legacy with the chamber, especially work to change regulations to make the town more business friendly and pulling together the town’s many festivals and events.
“We worked with zoning and they were very helpful to us,” she said.
While Dean anticipates a smooth transition to her new post, she feels the same about the chamber’s new leader — state Rep. Laura Hoydick. Hoydick, R-120, preceded Dean as the chamber executive director, a job she held from 2003 to 2007.
“We’ve just kind of always been together,” said Dean, laughing.