Charlottesville City Hall

Six candidates who hope to become Charlottesville’s next director of neighborhood development services came to town late last week to explain why they are qualified to take on the task.

“They were asked to address numerous topics, including the future of zoning in Charlottesville, how they would continue our commitment to providing excellent customer service and how they would balance the needs of our neighborhoods with development opportunities in the city,” City Manager Maurice Jones said.

The identities of the candidates are not public record because the application process is a personnel matter and not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

“Two of the candidates are from Virginia and the rest are from elsewhere in the United States,” said Miriam Dickler, the city’s communications director.

No other information about the candidates was provided.

The job posting called for a “dynamic leader” with “strong marketing skills and persuasive skills who is willing to engage in proactive discussion with all segments of an active citizenry and highly participative community.”

“The six candidates were chosen based on their experience and a record of success in their previous positions,” Jones said.

In all, 53 people applied for the position, which will pay between $110,000 and $145,000 a year.

The successful candidate will replace Jim Tolbert, who resigned in early February to take a job as assistant city manager of Sandy Springs, Georgia. He had served as Charlottesville’s chief planner since 1999.

The candidates spent Thursday touring the city. On Friday, they were interviewed by four panels of residents. Panelists included neighborhood association leaders, planning commissioners and members of the Board of Architectural Review, officials said.

Jones will make the final hiring decision based on evaluations from neighborhood leaders and officials.

“I will take a few days to consider the input I received from the panelists and then move expeditiously with the final selection process,” Jones said.

Many are watching to see who Jones will appoint.

“The selection will say a great deal about the direction the city is headed,” said Neil Williamson, of the pro-business Free Enterprise Forum. “While the NDS director does not set public policy, the manner they manage the department and engage with citizens and applicants can dramatically impact growth and development of the city’s Comprehensive Plan.”

The next director also will inherit a series of planning studies that are currently underway, which includes the Streets That Work initiative, adoption of a new bicycle and pedestrian plan and an audit of the city’s zoning.

The director also will oversee the continuing evolution of West Main Street. The city is currently considering a rezoning to lower the maximum building heights on the road, as well as implementation of a streetscape informed by a $340,000 study conducted by Rhodeside & Harwell.

The city also is seeking a new person to run the fire department following the retirement of Fire Chief Charles Werner. Jones said more than 60 people have applied to be his replacement.