Wendell planning director will leave post at the end of January

mhankerson@newsobserver.comJanuary 16, 2014 

— After just over a year in the position, Wendell Planning Director Zunilda Rodriguez will be resigning at the end of the month.

Rodriguez said she will be returning to the Washington D.C. area to “re-align my personal and professional interest a little more.”

She declined to say what kind of position she’ll be moving into, but she said it would still be a planning position.

Rodriguez joined the Wendell staff about 14 months ago from a position in Alexandria, Va., close to Washington D.C.

“I was very attracted to the opportunity to help transform and be part of a community that was interested in revitalizing and redeveloping itself,” she said of making the move to Wendell.

And in her relatively short tenure with the town, Rodriguez said the town is on its way to achieving its development goals.

She said the creation of the economic development committee is one example of the work the town has started that will help in the future, but Rodriguez said doing that work has also served her.

“I think bringing forth different ideas about what planning is and how we can use that to strengthen ourselves as a community will be the most important thing I remember about my time here,” she said.

Rodriguez’s resignation comes at a pivotal time for Wendell. The Wendell Falls project that was stymied by the 2008 recession got a new start when Newland Communities took it over in October.

Her resignation also comes at a time when finding a replacement isn’t as straightforward as it may seem.

Last year, the Board of Commissioners decided to halt any hiring of ‘non-essential staff,’ but reserved the right for the town manager to seek special permission to lift that freeze if an empty position is deemed critical.

With the recent transfer of Wendell Falls to Newland Communities, Town Manager Teresa Piner sought and received that permission to find a new planning director at Monday night’s town board meeting.

The town estimates it will take until March to fill the position. In the meantime, town planner David Bergmark will be the Interim Planning Director.

Rodriguez may be heading off to a place with population almost 100 times bigger than Wendell’s but she said she’ll be keeping an eye on the town.

“I'm really excited for the town and I'm really excited to see what they're about to embark on,” she said.

“Wendell has positioned themselves for great success and I wish them nothing but that.”

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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