Brewer High School athletic director David Utterback was recently named the top athletic administrator in the state of Maine. Credit: Courtesy of Kevin Forrest

When David Utterback was interning at Husson University in his master’s program, one of his tasks opened his eyes to an interesting concept.

“Gabby Price was the athletic director, Husson was transitioning from NAIA to NCAA Division III, and all NCAA institutions had to have a student-athlete advisory council,” said Utterback, who was majoring in business management with a concentration in athletic administration.

“One of my jobs was to research those councils and I found it pretty fascinating,” Utterback added. “I thought a council would be really appealing at the high school level.”

Fast forward to 2012 when Utterback received his first job as an athletic director at Brewer High School, where he wound up implementing a student-athlete advisory council. That ingenuity is one of the things that helped Utterback earn the Robert Lahey Athletic Administrator of the Year Award by the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association at their annual conference last week.

It is named after the former longtime coach and Old Town High administrator.

“He is a great athletic director. He does an awesome job,” said longtime Brewer softball coach Skip Estes.

“He really connects with the kids. He gets them involved. He set up that student-athlete advisory council so that they have input into things like their program’s needs, the hiring of coaches and the school’s academic [eligibility] requirements,” Estes said.

Utterback said the council was involved in implementing the mask policy at the school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Former Brewer High girls basketball coach Chris Horr, who recently stepped down after eight seasons on the Brewer bench, said the council gives the student-athletes a voice and some ownership of their athletic program.

“He is very supportive of all the coaches and student-athletes. He listens,” Horr said. “He wants them to have the best experience possible. He does a great job.

“He is very deserving of the award,” Horr added.

Being an athletic director has been a long-time dream of Utterback’s.

When he was a student at Bangor High School, David Utterback’s guidance counselor asked him what career he wanted to pursue.

“I told him I wanted to do what Mr. Vanidestine does,” said Utterback, referring to Bangor High athletic director Steve Vanidestine.

Utterback earned the award two years after Vanidestine won it.

“Obviously, it’s a great honor,” said the 41-year-old Utterback. “Knowing the people who have input on the award and who choose the recipient, it is really humbling.”

One of the major influences in his career has been the man he succeeded, Dennis Kiah.

“Dennis is a very legendary figure,” Utterback said. “It’s hard to follow in a legend’s footsteps. But it isn’t hard when the legend gives you his shoes.

“Dennis has been right along with me,” added Utterback, who also coaches Brewer’s unified basketball team.

Utterback graduated from Bangor High School in 1999, where he played baseball.

He went to earn a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Husson University in Bangor in 2003 and then a master’s degree from Husson two years later.

He taught physical education and coached baseball at Old Town High School before being named the athletic director at Brewer in 2012.

Utterback said he has been blessed to work in a “great city” with exceptional people.

“It’s a great place to work,” he said.

He added that he has been very fortunate to have a wonderful network of athletic directors he deals with like Vanidestine, Mount Desert Island’s Bunky Dow, Hampden Academy’s Fred Lower, John Bapst of Bangor’s Danny O’Connell, Hermon’s Rick Sinclair and Lewiston’s Jason Fuller, among others.

Utterback and other community leaders have a plan in place to raise money for a 210,000-square-foot artificial turf facility that would accommodate three full-size fields to be used by several teams including the field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, baseball and softball teams. It would also be used as a practice field for football.

The pandemic slowed the momentum but Utterback is moving forward.

“We’re trying to find grants [to help fund it],” Utterback said.