Duke chosen EBR’s new planning director

Frank Duke Show caption
Frank Duke

After more than six months of searching and a few setbacks along the way, the City-Parish Planning Commission has offered the planning director position to Frank Duke, a former planner for Norfolk, Virginia.

The move comes two months after the commission’s first pick, Charles Graves, of Cincinnati, turned down the job.

The Planning Commission on Monday interviewed Duke and two other finalists, interim Planning Director Ryan Holcomb and private planning firm owner Don Broussard, of Atlanta.

Duke, who has more than 26 years of planning experience, told the commission he considers Baton Rouge “one of America’s great cities.”

He said he left his previous position in Virginia in November because he felt he was being spread too thin.

“It pulled me away from what I really love doing, which is planning,” he said. “I went to school to be a planner.

“My interest and my forte lies in planning, and that’s one of the things I find very attractive about this position in Baton Rouge.”

Duke said he has been approached by recruiters for positions elsewhere but kept Baton Rouge as his No. 1 option because he likes the region and has family in New Orleans.

It’s not clear when the hire will be finalized or when Duke could start.

Boo Thomas, executive director and CEO of the Center for Planning Excellence in Baton Rouge, said Duke was her top pick from the beginning.

“I think we have a winning team here,” she said. “He’s going to be a great director.”

Thomas does not sit on the commission.

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.

Planning Commission members stressed that they didn’t want someone who would hold the job short-term.

“This isn’t a position that I think we want to be in again anytime soon,” commissioner Darius Bonton said of the search for a new director.

As the search for a new planning director stretched on, three finalists aside from Graves pulled their names from consideration: Woodrow Muhammad, of Central; Carolyn Rutledge, Georgia; and Otis Spriggs, Arkansas. Monday’s interviews served as an unexpected second-round after Graves turned down the job.

Holcomb, who did not initially apply for the position, recently was added to the list of candidates after two Metro Council members suggested the search should end with his appointment to the post.

Thomas said she thinks Holcomb, a Baton Rouge native and LSU graduate, would be a good fit for the assistant planning director job, which also is open.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of city-parish government, follow our City Hall blog at http://blogs.thead vocate.com/cityhallbuzz.