After 11 years as city planning and development director, Ann Marie Townshend has been selected as city manager in Lewes.

Dover officials have learned of the loss of another member of their senior staff with the resignation of Ann Marie Townshend, the city’s director of planning and community development.

Townshend said she has been hired as city manager in Lewes.

Townshend submitted her letter of resignation March 15, to be effective March 31.

News of Townshend’s departure comes only three days after City Manager Scott Koenig announced his resignation, effective March 17.

“I decided a while ago I wanted to look for opportunities to get into city management,” she said. “But I didn’t just want to go anywhere. I’ve seen a number of open positions, some I applied for, some I didn’t.”

But around the first of the year, Townshend spotted an opening in Lewes.

“I thought, ‘Wow, Lewes,’” she said. “It’s just a wonderful place.”

Townshend felt she would be a strong contender for the position.

“I think that through my role with the city of Dover, I’ve certainly managed budgets and people, so I’ve developed those management skills.

“I have a strong background as a planner and so many of the issues that face Lewes are related to planning, such as sea level rise, dealing with growth on the borders and preserving historic resources.

“It was a good fit for me.”

Townshend applied and was interviewed for the position, a process that ended with a March 10 phone call from Lewes Mayor Ted Becker.

“I took some time to think about it and talk to my family and got back to him,” she said. The time since has been spent working out her employment agreement, Townshend said.

Her staff, she added, was very supportive once they got the news.

“I think some were surprised,” she said. “I have a very good relationship with my staff. I think they are sad to see me go, but they’re happy for me. I’ve got some really great people.

Townshend said city council members were surprised upon learning of her departure, but also supportive.

“I was shocked that she’s leaving,” Third District Councilman Fred Neil said. “I think she’s terrific, I think she’s brilliant.”

Council members now will have to tackle filling two senior level positions within city government, he said.

“There is a leadership void now,” Neil said. “We’ll still be relying on the professional staff to do what needs to be done, but it gives [council] a chance to see where we want to go.”

Downtown transformation

Townshend feels the highlight of her time with the planning office has been Dover’s designation as a Downtown Development District and work being done to encourage homeownership, home renovation and construction in central Dover, she said.

“That has really been the stuff that has the potential to really transform downtown, to really improve the quality of life.”

Originally from Baltimore, Townshend, 44, came to Delaware as a student at the University of Delaware, where she obtained a Master’s Degree in public administration.

She then worked for DNREC’s parks and recreation division, moving to the state planning office and later to the city of Dover in 2006.

The timing of her announcement is a bit ironic, Townshend said. She started with the city on March 20, her son’s birthday, which she missed because she had a planning commission meeting. Her last planning meeting is again on March 20, meaning she again will miss her son’s birthday.

“I guess I’ve come full circle,” she said.