Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year, New Plan(nner)

I don't think I have written yet about the process we followed in the fall to replace our long term planner/zoning administrator who retired in September. The new recruit, Tim, starts today, so I figured it is a good time to recount the ordeal.

Bruce gave his notice in early September and the chips started to fall. I had anticipated that he might leave soon after he reached 20 years with the City. I had some ideas about how to realign the office, make changes, you knew review the structure and staff orientation and look to fill holes. It was clear that we would not be able to replace the person leaving, because he had such a strong transportation background and understanding of grant processes and he brought a level of experience that you get with time and structure.

So, we knew that there was going to be change. I looked at the existing staff staying, myself included, and looked to see what skills and personality traits we needed to have to compliment the office. I wasn't so concerned with the exact job description because I know that a  smart person, who can learn and communicate well, can tackle any task thrown at them.

With this in mind, we crafted a job description and posting to seek an Assistant City Planner. This person's focus would be on zoning administration and rounding out the planning needs in the office. My hope is that some tasks that I currently complete can be reshuffled and that we can breath some new energy into areas that might have been complacent. I think the plan will work.

We posted the position in mid October with a closing date of November 3. Come November 3 at 4 pm, we had 73 application, including over 20 from outside New England. I had determined I was going to interview 10 percent. By 6 pm we had picked out 8 people (I rounded up), and set up two days of interviews for the following week. I called each of the 8 and offered the interviews. It was interesting that we had four men and four women, 2 each day.

The interviews were conducted by a panel made up of three staff (Planner, Community Services Director and Building Official) as well as the Zoning Board chair. After the first day, it was clear that one person should come back for an interview. The second day, it was tougher to cull it down to a finalist. The plan was to have two, maybe three, finalists. The plan was for me to conduct the final interview. There were two real great options to choose from. Again, when the chips fell it became clear one should come in.

So, we had the final interview the week of Thanksgiving. Two interviews, two hours each. The first interview went well. A little crazy, very relaxed and  somewhat fun. The second interview candidate came in with a high benchmark to meet. He jumped that benchmark and was the clear winner. We ended up having a four and ahlf hour interview, including the job offer and haggling over pay. It was great. You could tell within 5 minutes that he was the person for the role.

I think that Tim is going to be a great fit. He is intelligent, personable, and a great communicator. He has energy and drive, which are key as well. The time I have spent with him, as well as follow up phone calls and emails has shown that we made the correct choice.

So, today is his first day. I recall my first day, June 1, 1997. I remember walking in not knowing anyone and overhearing the secretary tell a staff person that she wasn't too keen on a new person starting and that she was sure that I would have to be held by the hand. I then introduced myself. You have to smile and learn from things like that. I'm sure that we can make Tim feel welcome and show him that this is a team he'll be proud to be part of.

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