New city planner gets to work

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2008

NATCHEZ — The new city planner for Natchez is on the job and said he is excited about economic development, maintaining historic preservation, writing a comprehensive plan and staying in town for the long haul.

Though John Lewis has worked in several different locations, he is no stranger to this city.

“Natchez has been familiar turf for me for a long time and over the years, I feel that I’ve gathered some understanding of local problems and opportunities before us,” Lewis said.

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He said there is important work to be done and he wants to do his work while maintaining the soul of Natchez.

“The city’s economic development promise is both complemented by and at one with its nationally recognized historic preservation depth and its small town character,” Lewis said.

He said planning decisions made well, promote growth of business and economic development.

“I am particularly excited of the prospect of working to update the comprehensive plan of the city,” Lewis said.

The city’s comprehensive plan has not been updated in almost a decade, and normal practices of city planning dictate that a comprehensive plan should be updated every 10 years.

Lewis said he believes that citizen response and outside professional help are key in the process.

“The comprehensive planning process itself is as important as the document, the plan, that comes from the process,” Lewis said. “The process should be born of citizen participation.”

Before Lewis came to Natchez, he was working as the city planner in Pascagoula.

Lewis said through his 20-plus years in city planning, he’s bringing a lot of knowledge to the table.

“I feel I’m in a good position to help Natchez and I know Natchez is a good place for me and I think I can do a lot to work with the city and help the city over time,” he said.

Over the past seven years, he has served in several different capacities of city planning departments in Hattiesburg, Tupelo, Hampton, Ga., Hendersonville, Tenn., and Gallatin, Tenn.

This, however, does not mean that Lewis plans to pack his bags after a short while.

“I’m here for the long run and I’m at an age where my career is one of the most meaningful things that I have,” he said. “I am very anxious to buy a house and be a stable part of the community. That’s why I’ve come here.”

Lewis applied for the position the last time it was three years ago, but the board was wary of how many jobs he had changed in a short amount of time.

Natchez has seen many a city planner come and go and that it attributed to several different reasons.

It’s been called the “nature of the job,” by West and he has also said that the city planner for Natchez doesn’t get paid enough.

The former city planner had intended to move to Natchez, but never did, and was one of the reasons he was terminated at the beginning of this year.

West said that when Lewis applied the second time, he spoke of his desire to live and stay in Natchez, which calmed any fears.

“I’m very fortunate to have been selected and want to make the best of it and I feel that I have a lot to offer and I’ve know for a long time that Natchez has a lot to offer me,” he said.

“I love the city and its people.”