Willy Thompson, Neighborhood Planner
Where were you born (and raised, if different)?
I was born and raised in South Boston, Virginia.
When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?
I began working for the City in April of 2011.
What neighborhood do you live in now?
I actually live in Richmond. Before coming to the City, my wife got a job working for the Town of Ashland. After much deliberating between living in Richmond or Charlottesville, we went with Richmond. My wife’s closer to her job and she has family in Richmond, both details of which are coming in handy as we start our new family. In the meantime, I spend my commute catching up on sports, music, and audio books.
Family (spouse, kids, etc.)?
I’ve been married for one year and my wife and I just had our first child, a daughter, three weeks ago.
What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?
I attended Virginia Tech for my undergraduate planning degree, graduating in 2004, and earned a Master of Public Administration degree from James Madison University in 2009.
What were you doing before you came to work for the City?
Before coming to work for the City, I worked as a Land Use Planner for Rockingham County, VA, which is where Harrisonburg and JMU are located. I worked there for almost five years.
Your job title is Neighborhood Planner – what, in your own words, would you say you do?
I represent the City on behalf of the public as it pertains to most land use-related issues in the southwest portion of the City. I handle rezonings, site plans, special use permits, subdivisions, complaints, and any other number of citizen requests and inquiries. In addition, I continuously work with the other Neighborhood Planners to update and improve the City’s planning documents and resources.
What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?
Undoubtedly, helping citizens is the best part of my job. I take pride in being a public servant, doing my best to serve the public in whatever capacity is needed. When done successfully, helping the public is a great feeling. However, planning for the future can be a divisive subject and rightfully so. That’s where the difficulty comes in and as planners, it is our job to help facilitate the City’s planning conversations in hopes that we can achieve great outcomes.
How does your job most directly impact the average person?
The average person may need their boundary line adjusted. They may need a new sidewalk or want to learn more about a new development project in their neighborhood. Perhaps they want to add a parking space to their driveway or buy a property for the purposes of opening a restaurant. Whatever it is, I help with these and all other kinds of land use-related issues. Land use issues may impact one person or as many as thousands.
What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the City?
We are in the midst of updating the City’s Comprehensive Plan, and anytime I can help the community plan for its future, I immediately rank the event high on my experience list.
What is a little-known fact about you?
Anyone who knows me, knows I am a huge fan of Virginia Tech, but growing up, I was a UVA fan. That is, until my 13th birthday. My parents took me to the UVA-VT game in Blacksburg where VT soundly beat UVA. Call me a bandwagon fan, but that experience locked me in as Hokie, and I’ve been so ever since. Nevertheless, I still pull for UVA when they’re competing against other schools.
What do you do outside of work hours – hobbies, etc.?
Just about anything sports and music-related but with a new wife, house, and baby, I gladly spend most my free time with family and working on the house. Still sneak in the occasional round or two of golf.