Will Cockrell, Planner, Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission
Where were you born (and raised, if different)?
I was born and raised in Hanover County, Virginia. We grew up in the southwestern part of the County, near Short Pump. I never thought I would say this, but ‘back when I was a kid,’ Short Pump was nothing but a small service station that had the tail section of a Cessna that protruded from the roof. Anyone who traveled that way before the late 1990s is nodding his or her head right now.
When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?
I first moved to Charlottesville in 1999, when I started my undergraduate work at UVA. Of course, I would go back home to Hanover during the summers during my student years. I was familiar with the Charlottesville area because my brother and sister also attended UVA. Since I’m the youngest in the family, I grew up taking lots of trips to Charlottesville. After graduation, I never left the area.
What neighborhood do you live in now?
This is an ever-changing answer. I currently live in the Pantops area. In my fourteen years in and around Charlottesville, I’ve moved eleven times. I’ve lived on the south, east, west, north and central parts of the City. So, I’ve lived in almost every neighborhood, it seems.
Family (spouse, kids, etc.)?
I’m getting married in October of this year. She happens to be the best girl around. We don’t have kids, but we do have a gray cat named Ozzy.
What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?
I’m a double WaHoo. I got my undergraduate and graduate degrees from UVA.
What were you doing before you came to work for the TJPDC?
I joined the PDC about five years ago. Before taking on this role, I worked for Louisa County as their senior planner. With the County, I was able to work with a great group of people and had the chance to participate in a wide variety of projects.
Your job title is TJPDC Planner – what, in your own words, would you say you do?
I am the program manager for our Planning and Environmental program. I am also a program manager for our Rural Transportation Program. Aside from managing those programs, I write reports and plans, conduct studies, and reach out to the localities in our area. My job is to find out what our localities need, providing planning services and other assistance to them.
What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?
We have the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects, so I never get bored. The most difficult part is that we have no real authority to implement our plans and studies. That responsibility belongs to the localities in our area.
How does your job most directly impact the average person?
We conduct work on plans and studies, which certainly influence local policy decisions. While we do not build anything or provide direct services to the public, we do provide information and assistance to our communities. My goal is to be unbiased and provide whatever help we can to our localities: Charlottesville and the counties of Green, Louisa, Fluvanna, Albemarle and Nelson. We also want to listen to the public and help them organize their ideas into a vision for their communities.
What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the TJPDC?
It is difficult to pick out one project or experience. There are interesting aspects to all of them. In the last few years, I’ve had the chance to work on a downtown revitalization plan, return on investment studies, and a toolkit to help communities be more accessible to those with disabilities, transportation plans, etc. Fortunately, we have a great team here at TJPDC. Working with those colleagues may be the most rewarding part of the job.
What is a little-known fact about you?
I have not missed a UVA home football game in 15 years. Because of our honeymoon this fall, I will miss my first game, but I can’t think of a better way to break the streak.
What do you do outside of work hours – hobbies, etc.?
I make quilts. I usually get a weird look when I tell people that. I’ve made about eight quilts so far, so I’m not an expert quite yet. I like to travel as much as I can, though I can’t claim to have traveled the world. I like fiddling with little projects. I’m also trying to learn Spanish, though I’m apparently a slow learner. I used to participate in triathlons and other races, but I’ve taken a break from that. I hope to get back into that fitness routine, though I’m enjoying my time away from training. On a more professional note, I serve on the American Planning Association (Virginia Chapter) Board and spend time working on those responsibilities in my free time.