EBR Planning Commission reaches to Cincinnati for new director

After nearly four months of searching, the City-Parish Planning Commission has offered the parish’s top planning job to Charles Graves, a Cincinnati planning director.

No timeline has been set, but Graves is expected to become the new city-parish planning director, pending a background and reference check and his formal acceptance of the job offer.

Planning Commission Chairwoman Tara Wicker said the process is expected to take about a week.

Currently serving as director of city planning and buildings in Cincinnati, Graves previously worked as a city planner in Baltimore, Atlanta and Washington D.C.

He was one of six planning director finalists who came to Baton Rouge for interviews last week. Graves was a clear favorite, based on the length of his interview and comments commissioners made this weekend. The Planning Commission took fewer than 15 minutes Monday to unanimously agree to the hire.

“They all had some great strengths, but at the end of the day… Charles Graves stuck out,” said commissioner Steven Perret.

Others in the running included planners from Monroe, Central, Atlanta, Norfolk, Va., and Columbus, Ga.

Wicker said several bystanders approached her after the interviews this weekend to express support for Graves.

“At the end of the day, I think there was an overwhelming consensus or agreement out there that people really liked him,” she said.

More than 90 people applied for the job, which former Planning Director Troy Bunch held for more than 20 years before his retirement in November.

During his interview Saturday, Graves said he sees Baton Rouge as “a great city that’s really growing and is really dedicated to planning.”

In his cover letter and in his interview, Graves said he had the opportunity to visit the parish and volunteer after Hurricane Katrina.

Graves noted the weather change he’s in for, joking that a move to Baton Rouge would let him “shed his coat.”

The new planning director will be responsible for the ongoing implementation of FutureBR, the parish’s master plan. Other duties include reviewing plans for subdivisions and some commercial developments and potential zoning changes. The job pays up to $100,202 a year, plus a car allowance and benefits.

Graves praised FutureBR during his interview.

“I think you all have a great plan, a great vision,” he said. “The greatest challenge is to take it day by day and not take your eyes off the prize.”

Among the first priorities for the new director will be naming an assistant director. Ellen Miller retired from that position at the time of Bunch’s retirement. Ryan Holcomb, who was in the role of planning project coordinator, has been leading the office on an interim basis.