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Amherst assistant planning director looks forward to 'next act' in retirement

Amherst is conducting a search for a new assistant planning director following the retirement of Gary B. Black, who left the No. 2 position in the Planning Department last month.

Black was a 30-year veteran of the department whose tenure coincided with the period when office park and commercial development transformed Amherst into an employment center for the region.

Black said he is proud of the department's work to establish a predictable review process, for both residents and developers, for projects that came into the Planning Department. The department was the first step before the projects went to the Planning Board or the Town Board for review and approval.

"Everybody knew what the process was," Black said.

Black, 58, said the timing was right for him to retire now. He said it gives him a chance to pursue other opportunities, probably in the areas of planning or development. He said he hasn't decided exactly what he'll do next.

"There will be a next act," he said.

Robert McCarthy, the town's director of human resources, said he and Eric W. Gillert, the town's planning director, will lead the search for Black's replacement. Daniel C. Howard, an associate planner for the town, is picking up Black's duties on an interim basis. Black earned $86,551 as assistant planning director.

Black worked closely with the town Planning Board, and Gillert informed its members at their January meeting. But he used, let's say, an interesting turn of phrase to describe Black's departure from town government.

"Gary Black is no longer with us," Gillert told the board, before adding, "He is retired."

This prompted some laughter from board members and planning staff. One member, Stephanie Gelber, noting the initial phrase made it seem Black had gone to the great beyond, told Gillert, "You really need to say that first."

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