WENDELL — It might not seem very planner-like, but David Bergmark, a planner for the town of Wendell, spends some of his time during the work week with a metal detector in hand, locating metal pins that mark the locations of future gravesites.
He claimed the job from Teresa Piner who first hired him when she was the town’s planning director.
Now the town manager, Piner called on Bergmark again last week, inviting him to the podium to accept the 2013 Town of Wendell’s employee of the year award.
Locating graves is just a small part of what Bergmark, 29, does, for the town. He spends most of his time scouring over development site plans and arcane books filled town ordinances that regulate development within the town’s planning area. And he has a set of mapping skills that is unique among all town employees.
The job in Wendell was Bergmark’s first career stop after he obtained his master’s degree in urban planning from the University of North Carolina in 2008. His undergraduate degree in geography, which also came from UNC, pushed him in that direction.
“We all had to take a freshman seminar and I saw one on urban development that really caught my eye. We looked at how development affects people’s lives in ways they don’t really even think about,” Bergmark said.
Bergmark’s fondness for mapping grew out of that seminar and he has parlayed that into a successful career in Wendell.
Finance Director Butch Kay, one of the committee members who judged the nominations for this year’s award, said Bergmark represents the town well in service on several regional committees, like the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which doles out money for a variety of large projects.
“When you have that much confidence in somebody that you want to let them tote the water for you on things like that, I think it sends a good message,” Kay said.
He also points to Bergmark’s calm demeanor when he makes presentations in front of the town’s planning board or town commissioners.
“Sometimes they can really throw some questions at you and if you’re not prepared, it can really unnerve you,” Kay said. “But David’s always been really good at that. He’s always prepared and he’s always calm up there.”
‘Makes me feel good’
Bergmark, who didn’t know he was going to win the award until part of the way through Piner’s introduction, said he was pleased by the honor because it represents an appreciation from across all departments in town government.
“Because of the mapping that I do, I have more of an opportunity to work with people in other departments than other people in planning. Sometimes I can work with the parks and recreation department or public works or even the police department. It makes me feel good that people in other parts of the town government appreciate what I do,” Bergmark said.
Patrick Reidy, the town’s other planner, nominated Bergmark for the honor. When Reidy joined the staff, it was Bergmark who trained him.
“I’ve only been here seven months, but he has put a lot of effort into training me. I’ve worked in other places where the training was just so-so, but he’s really taken a lot of time to make sure I was aware of how we do things in Wendell,” Reidy said.
In fact, with just five years experience on the staff, Bergmark is the most senior staff member in the group. His boss, Zunilda Rodriguez, joined the staff just over a year ago, following a period in which Piner served as the town’s interim manager and left much of the day-to-day work to Bergmark.
That experience has helped Bergmark realize that planning work in a smaller town like Wendell offers benefits he can’t get in larger cities.
“When I came, Wendell Falls was the hot thing and when it slowed down, that was almost a blessing in disguise because it gave us time to catch up on some of our ordinances,” Bergmark said. In a smaller town you get more opportunities to plan things from the beginning and help make them turn out well. It’s not like in a big city where you’re limited to what you can do in so many areas because it’s already developed.”
That kind of enthusiasm for his work – not to mention his forays into the graveyard – helped Bergmark earn the title as the town’s top employee.
Whitfield: 919-829-4823; Twitter: @easternwakenews