PEABODY — In its next executive director, the Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce has hired someone well-acquainted with the Peabody business community, and who has spent more than half her life working in City Hall. City Treasurer and Tanner City native Julie Daigle, 36, has been hired to lead the Chamber.
In fact, she's already on the board of directors, where she's served for some time on the city's behalf, and she's worked closely with local businesses before in a previous role as the city's first business liaison.
Daigle has been a fixture in City Hall since the original "Mayor Pete," the late former Mayor Peter Torigian, hired her as an intern in her junior year in high school.
"I think Julie is a fantastic candidate," said Deanne Healey, a former longtime director of the Peabody Chamber.
"I think she is going to bring new life to the organization." Healey left the Chamber in 2017, after 16 years, to become a market manager at Salem Five Bank but still remains involved in boosting the fortunes of the downtown as president of the nonprofit Peabody Main Streets.
She said Daigle knows the city, knows the players and knows how to get things done. She is someone who can step in and make a difference right away.
PACC Chairman Michael Murray, in a statement, said that following an "extensive search and interview process," Daigle's nomination was unanimously approved by the board of directors. She officially will start her new job June 7.
"The opportunity to be able to get back involved with the business community and help make improvements and find out what the needs are," Daigle said, "I like to be involved with the community and I think this is in a way a fun job to be able to do that."
The leadership of the regional business organization, with 340 members, has been in flux in recent years. Daigle is stepping into a role now that was filled for a little over a year by Jenna Coccimiglio.
In April, Coccimiglio, a former executive director of the Malden Chamber of Commerce, left to become the marketing and operations director at Century 21 North East, The Kristin Gennetti Group in Malden. Coccimiglio was first hired at PACC in November 2017, to replace Healey.
Mayor Ted Bettencourt said it will be bittersweet to lose Daigle. He praised her work in the treasurer's office, saying she had done an excellent job, was professional and hardworking.
City records show she earned a little less than $77,100 in 2018, while her new job with the Chamber will pay about $75,000.
But the mayor pointed out Daigle won't be far away. Her new office at 49 Lowell St. is across and just down the street from City Hall.
The Chamber and the city work closely on revitalization efforts, Bettencourt said, such as the creation of the Black Box Theater at the Northeast Arc's ArcWorks Community Arts Center on Foster Street.
"She'll still be extremely involved in all the activity in the city of Peabody," he said. He plans to post the treasurer's job next week, and Daigle will be available during the transition to help out, he said.
The transition to city treasurer a couple of years ago had its challenges, conceded Daigle, who spent most of her time at City Hall in the Community Development Department.
She and her husband Michael Daigle, a former Lowell police officer, just had their son, Desmond, and she was still on maternity leave when she switched jobs.
In college, Daigle had found she had a knack for accounting. She thought she was going to land elsewhere, but decided to come work for the city. She started as an senior clerk in the treasurer's office she now leads. She has worked as the secretary for the Licensing Board, Board of Health, and the Community Development Authority.
Bettencourt named Daigle city treasurer in August 2017.
As the treasurer, she missed meeting with folks, which she often did as business liaison.
"I guess I would be a Walmart greeter if it paid enough," she joked.
Peabody roots Daigle, whose maiden name is Rydzewski, grew up in the Emerson Park neighborhood, attended St. John the Baptist School and graduated from Peabody High in 2001. She earned a bachelor's degree in accounting and business administration from Merrimack College in North Andover in 2005.
She caught the City Hall bug in her junior year in high school when "Mayor Pete," as she refers to Torigian, hired her as an intern.
"It was really interesting just coming into City Hall and learning about government some days," she reflected.
Not all the jobs were glamorous. She once wound up counting paperclips.
Daigle said she likes helping people, but she is not interested in running for political office. She has worked for three mayors: Torigian, Michael Bonfanti and Bettencourt.
While at college, she would work in City Hall part-time during breaks and summers.
Describing herself as a shy kid growing up, she remembers the first time she ran into Bonfanti in the mayor's office, not realizing at the time he was the mayor-elect. Bonfanti, for his part, noted she worked for him for 10 years. She steadily moved up the ranks. During his administration, she served as the city's grants manager from 2007 until 2013.
"We watched her grow and grow into the job," he said. Bonfanti said he was proud of Daigle being picked to lead the Chamber, and said she would be a great fit for the organization.
Bettencourt then, Daigle said, had campaigned on helping businesses better interact with City Hall. Not long after he was elected mayor in 2011, Bettencourt made the Daigle the city's first business liaison.
She worked under the Community Development Department's former director, Karen Sawyer Conard, now the executive director of the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission.
At first, Daigle said, other departments would throw anything business-related her way, but the job, she said, was more about helping improve the experience of companies in City Hall seeking to do business or expand in Peabody.
"Streamlining, finding improvements, being the voice for them if they feel frustrated and they are not getting anywhere," Daigle said.
"She really helped shape the position," said Conard, who added that Daigle went on to become the face of City Hall for the business community. "To me, this is a natural evolution."
The new job, Conard said, "gives her a chance to use her business skills in new and different ways and help build the Chamber."