Experienced planner sought for Baton Rouge director’s job

The panel tasked with vetting applicants vying to become Baton Rouge’s new city-parish planning director is being urged to look for an experienced planner dedicated to the ongoing implementation of FutureBR.

“We’ve heard a lot of talk recently about Baton Rouge being the next great American city,” said Amy Dewit, a member of the Poets and Philosophers Neighborhood Association. “I think it’s critical at this point that we have a planning director that can make this happen.”

Dewit was among 15 community leaders and others interested in the selection process who attended a meeting Thursday the selection committee hosted to gather input from the public.

“We have a good plan but we have to implement it,” said downtown resident Mark Martin.

Attendees also urged the committee to look for candidates who have proven records of working with other departments and experience in transportation planning.

“In the case of downtown Baton Rouge, good planning with predictability and stability is causing millions and millions of dollars of private sector development to happen,” Downtown Development District director Davis Rhorer said. “The role of the planning director is critical in keeping this going throughout the parish.”

Of the 90 applicants for the planning director post, 10 are certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners, 20 have master’s degrees in planning and 23 have more than 10 years of planning experience, said committee member James Gilmore.

The Advocate filed a public records request this week seeking information on all 90 applicants, but the request has not yet been fulfilled.

Among the top candidates whose names have been mentioned during the selection committee’s regular public meetings: Central Planning Director Woodrow Muhammad, who is a certified planner and previously worked for the city-parish; San Antonio interim planning and community development director ,Patrick Howard, who is also a certified planner and South Carolina native; and former Norfolk, Va. Planning Director Frank Duke, who resigned last month.

P lanning Director Troy Bunch retired last month. An interim director is leading planning efforts until a replacement is hired.