J.T. Newberry, Planner, Albemarle County

Your job title is Planner. What, in your own words, would you say you do?
I play a small role in helping Albemarle County achieve its highest potential. I do that by helping people understand what regulations (if any) apply to the projects they are proposing and then doing whatever I can to help them meet those regulations. In the end, my goal is to have achieved the appropriate balance of public and private interest in the project.
What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?
The best part of my job is meeting face-to-face with members of the community about what they want to do. It’s often clear that there is an even more important goal than just completing the project itself. For example, constructing a basement apartment will enable a loved one to live at home and get the care they need, expanding a business will allow it to create new jobs, or dividing off a small piece of land will keep the farm within the family.
The most difficult part of my job is providing comprehensive feedback on each and every proposal discussed with us. Ideally, our analysis will anticipate challenges that could come up later in the development process, but it’s difficult to plan for every scenario. Thankfully, I have very talented co-workers and we all can work together to provide the best information possible.
How does your job most directly impact the average person?
The average person experiences the impact of my job when they enjoy the extraordinarily high quality of life in the County. Everyone in the Department of Community Development works hard to support the things that people love most about our area. We’re also working to ensure the County is in the best possible position to seize future opportunities. In doing so, our impact becomes quite broad because we work with so many other state and local departments. As our population grows and changes over time, our work becomes even more important to the average person.
What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the County?
My first position with the County was answering the “Complaint Hotline.” I answered hundreds of calls from residents that wanted to discuss everything you would expect (noise, traffic, lighting, smells, dumping, signage), as well as some things you would not expect (someone once asked “Can you tell me if this pile of bones is from an animal or a human?”). The experience offered a fantastic window to the priorities of County residents, and I loved going out into the field to investigate the information that had been shared with me. Sometimes the complaint matched what I found; other times, it appeared to have been a bit embellished.
What is a little-known fact about you?
My first job out of college was working for a non-profit organization. Three other recent graduates and I drove a 36 ft. RV across the country to visit college campuses, military bases, and even a Native American reservation to discuss ways to support survivors of sexual assault. Over the course of 10 months, we traveled over 30,000 miles, visited 42 states, made 54 stops, and presented to well over 10,000 people.