Eric Savetsky, the longtime executive director of the Nantucket Land Bank, announced this week that he is stepping down from his leadership post after 23 years and passing the torch to assistant director Jesse Bell. We caught up with Eric on Friday to ask him five questions about his two-decade-plus tenure leading one of Nantucket’s most important agencies.
1. What went into your decision to step away? I’m 57. I’m lucky enough to be able to retire early and pursue my other passions in life. This has been a passion of mine. It’s been a dream job. So letting go hasn’t been easy. I never doubted the decision but feel like I’m abandoning my post a little bit. It’s really just wanting to pursue personal passions and travel and have a bit more time before I get too old.
2. Looking back on your time with the Land Bank, what would you describe as its greatest accomplishment? I had to pull out the map and think was there one particular acquisition? But there’s a few things. With directive of the commission, constantly trying to acquire waterfront parcels and creating access there. Also the expansion of Miacomet from 9 (holes) to 18. First coming on to the Land Bank, I didn’t appreciate the fact we owned a public golf course. That was a major effort and challenge. Now it’s blossomed into an amazing facility. The other would be new trail opportunities all over the island, particularly during covid, seeing how much enjoyment people had getting out into nature.
3. How has the Land Bank changed since you started in this role? One of the most striking things was over the first 15 years or more, it was “keep your head down, do the work, stay out of the headlines and just do the work.” And it worked well for us. In the modern era of social media, that doesn’t really cut it anymore. You have to put yourself out there and make them aware and feed people now. We were late to the game of public awareness and finding out people didn’t know what we were doing. In recnet years we’ve stepped up our outreach. Our focus was a bit narrower then, with open space and golf. Now it’s all sorts of new stuff: playgrounds, the paddle board courts, new initiatives in agriculture. These projects we’re doing now, we wouldn’t have dreamed of doing when I started. But it’s a good evolution.
4. What is your favorite Land Bank property and why? I think I would have to say, and it’s not one property, but Smooth Hummocks south of Miacomet golf course, that vast area between Cisco and Miacomet Pond. It’s a coastal maritime heathland habitat, which is globally rare. It’s so unique. It’s open with low shrub, and the harriers that use it for nesting and hunting, it’s just such a unique ecosystem. I call it our crown jewel.
5. As you pass the torch to Jesse Bell, what’s one piece of advice you gave her? We’ve been planning this for a year and talking about it for a year, and her office is literally right next to mine and the door is always open. We work together constantly. So I think it would be just to be a good listener. I’ve tried to involve everyone from top to the bottom in the thought processes and get as much input from our team as possible, and it is a team thing. And I think she’s on board with that. It’s the culture here.