Community Development Director, Town of West Springfield; Age 25
Stephanie Welch has her own working definition of the phrase that now appears on her business card (or one of them, anyway): community development.
“To me, it means removing equity barriers for those around you,” she told BusinessWest, adding that she goes about this assignment in a number of ways through her role with the town of West Springfield, everything from help administering a down-payment assistance program to those looking to buy a home to work assisting the local food pantry in securing a much-needed new home.
And this same basic goal also defines her work outside of her day job as a consultant and as a controller for a local manufacturer.
“Everyone I work with is tied to the same goal,” she said. “All the organizations, from West Springfield to the private companies I work with — they’re trying to remove equity barriers for people.”
Prior to the pandemic, Welch was working as a project manager for a large consulting firm that specialized in work with small- to medium-sized businesses when she decided she wanted to make a career shift. She saw the position of community developer in West Springfield as a natural fit and a logical move.
“A lot of it is administering grant funding, but it’s also basic accounting and budgeting and doing strategic planning,” she explained. “And I thought, ‘I can do this.’” City officials thought the same thing, and she started just after the pandemic hit.
Since arriving, she’s been involved in the multi-phase renovation of the West Springfield Boys & Girls Club, which she calls her “pride and joy,” as well as a number of paving projects, job-training initiatives for non-English-speaking residents (there are many in this community), and that aforementioned down-payment assistance project, administered in conjunction with Way Finders, which is helping many city residents become homeowners.
“Many people will say, ‘I can afford the mortgage, but I can just never get caught up to make the down payment,” she explained, adding that the program provides $5,000 to those who quality to get them over that hump.
That’s just one example of barrier removal, she said, reiterating that her work outside of Town Hall usually takes a similar course. Indeed, she serves as controller to the Coating House, a manufacturer working to bring more women into that industry.
Outside of her many kinds of work, Welch skis, hikes, and hangs out with her rescue dog, Whiskey.
— George O’Brien