By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
SHREWSBURY – When Rowen McAllister, a 22-year-old graduate student at Clark University in Worcester, interned with the Shrewsbury Planning Department last summer, she didn’t realize that she would soon become Shrewsbury’s Assistant Town Planner.
She officially began that very job, though, in November.
McAllister is grateful for the opportunity, which is part-time for now, because it works well with her graduate studies in community development and planning. She also received her undergraduate degree in economics from Clark.
“Rowen is a pleasure to work with for the same reasons we hired her,” Shrewsbury Town Planner Bernard Cahill remarked. “She is very enthusiastic about planning, always eager to learn more, and is quick to pick up and run with any task that is assigned to her.”
Internship develops into long-term job
McAllister credits a relationship she developed with Shrewsbury’s Assistant Town Manager, Kristen Las, who is an alumnus of the same graduate program, with letting her know about that initial internship opportunity in the Shrewsbury town planning department.
Once she had her internship, McAllister’s primary accomplishments included developing a business guide for prospective new business owners and streamlining the zoning appeal application process.
She is now the key staff member assigned to work with the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Experiences from Minnesota to Worcester shape professional focus
Still simultaneously a student, McAllister remembers arriving at Clark and knowing she wanted to have a career spent working with people.
Since then, much of her academic focus has been on issues of spatial inequity and how people’s lives are affected by economic factors.
Before Clark, though, McAllister became interested in community development back in her hometown of Stillwater, Minn.
“It’s a beautiful, small town right on the St. Croix River. It has a very beautiful historic downtown,” she added. “I worked in a public library, and my mom was a small business owner, and I felt really engaged and part of this really vibrant community.”
McAllister eyes future projects
Having relocated to Massachusetts, McAllister said she now looks forward to becoming more engaged with civic endeavors now that she is “a bit more grounded here on the east coast.”
Near the top of her list of interesting endeavors, she notes, are efforts to help to install and restock Free Food Fridges that have recently appeared in Worcester.
McAllister has her eye on Shrewsbury too.
“I’m really excited to become more familiar with the town…and to contribute to what I think is a really vibrant effort right now in terms of economic development,” she said.
Colleagues praise new Assistant Town Planner
McAllister resides in Worcester and is enjoying what the city has to offer. While COVID-19 has put a damper on some things, she enjoys reading and hiking. She also plays the flute in Clark’s jazz band.
As far as future plans? She said she could be working in Shrewsbury for a while.
Cahill agreed, saying, “We are incredibly glad that she is a member of the Shrewsbury Planning Department.”