The first of three finalists to replace longtime Augusta Planning and Development Director George Patty interviewed with city officials Wednesday.
Donnie Smith, the only Augusta Commission member to attend the interview with finalist Melanie Wilson, told Wilson that Patty’s shoes will be tough to fill.
“George has always been able to be the mediator” between developers and the commission, Smith said. “He takes the pressure off of us.”
Planning, traditionally the office that reviewed developer plans, was merged with Licensing and Inspections two years ago in a restructuring to form Planning and Development, although physically the offices will remain separate until renovations at the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building are complete.
Wilson, for three years a senior project manager at engineering consulting firm Bree and Associates in Raleigh, N.C., told Smith she is relocating to Augusta because her husband was recently hired by Georgia Regents University.
As Wake County, N.C., planning director from 2002-09, Wilson said she had created a “one-stop shop” and cross-trained staffers to streamline an unwieldy zoning application process.
Wilson and candidate Thomas Coyle hold master’s degrees in planning. The third candidate, John Guenther, has a doctorate in planning and education, according to his application.
None of the three finalists is currently employed. According to the Revelstoke Times Review, a newspaper of Canadian mountain resort Revelstoke, British Columbia, Guenther resigned in May after a three-year effort to develop one of Canada’s first Unified Development Bylaws. The UDB, a comprehensive overhaul of a city’s planning and zoning laws, was rejected by Revelstoke city council this year as too costly and complex to implement fully.
Coyle, who was the director of city development for Kansas City, Mo., for seven years, was laid off last year in a departmental reorganization, according to his résumé and reports in the Kansas City Star. Before that, Coyle served as executive director of city planning and development for Eugene, Ore., for four years.
The Augusta Commission and city department heads will have an opportunity to meet with Guenther and Coyle on Thursday and Friday. City Administrator Fred Russell said the city hopes to hire a planning director weeks ahead of Patty’s retirement in September to allow the new director time to train with Patty before he retires.