New manager, shared goal

It’s not quite as exciting as a line from an old western, “There’s a new sheriff in town,” but there is a new manager for Chadds Ford Township. And maybe as that stereotypic sheriff might say, he said “I want to make a difference.”

He’s Matt Baumann, a veteran of Desert Storm, a St. Louis, Mo. native, and someone with more than 18 years of local government experience.

The Board of Supervisors hired Baumann to replace Maryann Furlong who had already announced her intention to retire. Baumann came on board on May 2. Furlong will stay with the township working on special projects until September.

“There’s a sense of place here that’s unique,” Baumann said in a recent interview. “And the beauty here always struck me once you get off Route 202 and that whole commercial craziness. But it’s a beautiful township and the thing that clicked with me when I first came here, besides the smaller building and the smallish staff, was the conversation I had with the Board of Supervisors. We had a great conversation about the township, and I learned we have similar goals and objectives. We really clicked on the same ideas and philosophy,” he said.

That philosophy and vision include maintaining the commercial base on Route 202, while also preserving open space where possible and maintaining the historic feel of the village area, “preserving the past as much as possible.”

"I want to emphasize the importance of preserving open space to the extent possible because of the economic value to existing homes. People like open space and that has value to our residents and their property.," he said.

He comes across as a person comfortable with his past and the decisions he’s made, especially going back to school after he got out of the military.

“I was kind of a late bloomer in college. My dad ran a meat shop, so I spent the latter part of my teens and into my 20s working for him,” he said. But then he met the woman who would become his wife, so he went to night school and got his undergrad degree in liberal arts.

After moving into the region, Baumann enrolled in a program in urban planning at Temple University, which led to his getting a degree in urban planning.

He got a job working in the transportation section of the Delaware County Planning Department. After a year there, he went to work in Radnor Township as a planner. He said there was an initial learning curve in dealing with the public, but the role started to click.

“I was green in that area [dealing directly with the public] but I knew right away what I wanted to do for a living and that was to make a difference, locally, listening to the residents, the business owners, and work with the various [township] commissions,” he said.

A few years into his time at Radnor, he became the director of Community Development with a staff of about half a dozen, he said. He left in 2011 and moved into a similar director’s position in Tredyffrin Township, then was promoted to assistant manager in 2013.

Baumann came on board less than three weeks ago and he’s still getting acclimated to the township, including the physical layout and the people. But he likes what he’s experienced so far.

And as he did in Radnor, Baumann wants to work with businesses and developers, helping them negotiate the requirements of fundamental township documents, such as the comprehensive plan and zoning code. It’s a bit of a juggling act.

“I see a lot of zoning change petitions. I see a lot of amendments being proposed in the commercial corridor. You have to ask yourself why are all these petitions coming in, and what is not in place that needs to be in place. Every developer has his own goals, but we have to balance that with traffic, with sewer, all those things,” he said.

One of his primary goals is to see the zoning amendment, the one the board has been working on since 2015, go through.

“That’s very important to this board. And the Planning Commission has been working on it. Our consultants have been working very hard on it. That’s a goal of mine and of the board. We share that goal.”

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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