After a surprisingly short tenure as Wendell’s planning director, Zunilda Rodriguez has decided to leave for another position closer to Washington D.C., which is near where she came to Wendell from. While we certainly wish her well in her new endeavors, our minds turn quickly to who might fill her position.
For Wendell Town Manager Teresa Piner, it’s an important decision, akin to a football coach deciding who his starting quarterback is going to be.
Though the position of planning director may be invisible to much of the community, its importance can’t be understated. A town’s planning director oversees development and growth with that town. The planning director makes sure new developments meet the town’s standards, enforcing what can, at times, be frustrating rules. A planning director also helps the town determine its course in terms of new rules and guidelines that govern land use. Does the town want more high-end growth? More industrial growth? Something else? The planning director is often the person who helps town commissioners fulfill those desires by recommending rules and guidelines designed to encourage such growth.
To her credit, Piner herself is a former planning director and, as she has said, it’s still very much in her blood. She guided the town through the first effort to get the Wendell Falls project off the ground. The economy sank that effort, but with the project now under new ownership, a different planning director will work with the company that wants to develop Wendell Falls.
Over the next decade, as that project marches toward completion, a lot of decisions will have to be made and defended. A lot of rules will have to be interpreted.
Whoever Piner selects to follow Rodriguez should be a person who is impeccably prepared, has an eye for detail and a grand vision for how Wendell can get better than it already is.
That’s a tall order for Piner. We trust she is up to it and, above all, we hope she will be vigorous in her pursuit of just the right person to lead Wendell’s growth and development over the next many years.