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Mayor, aldermen interview city planner applicants

NATCHEZ — It’s been seven months since the city’s planning and zoning department was left without a city planner, and leaders are aiming to fill the void by June 1.

Mayor Jake Middleton and the Natchez Board of Aldermen began closed interviews for candidates last week at City Hall.

Middleton would not release the names of the candidates, citing matters of personnel. However, Middleton said the candidates traveled to Natchez from as far as Florida, Kentucky and North Carolina. One candidate scheduled a telephone interview from Missouri Tuesday.

Middleton said two candidates were interviewed Wednesday afternoon, and another candidate will be interviewed April 29.

Middleton said whomever is hired must be certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners, and must have some background in historical preservation.

“We’ve asked the candidates about grant writing experience, and we want someone who works well with the public,” Middleton said.

City Building Inspector Paul Dawes, temporary overseer of the planning and zoning department, said he desires a candidate who has earned a master’s degree in urban planning and exhibits administration abilities. For Dawes, hiring a city planner can’t come soon enough.

“I’m most anxious for the position to be filled and I’m sure things will run smoother in (the planning and inspection departments) once that happens,” Dawes said. “Each position demands 10 hours a day.

“With any luck, we’ll find someone out of the batch.”

Middleton said it is feasible to hire a city planner by June 1. Once interviews are concluded, he and the aldermen will review the candidates’ applications and ask follow-up questions if needed.

“I don’t see why we can’t hire someone by then,” Middleton said.

Whomever fills the city planner slot will succeed former City Planner John “Rusty” Lewis, who was terminated in October. The day before Lewis was terminated, Middleton announced the layoffs of Planning Specialist Dawn Williams and Land Use Planner Walter Huston. Secretary Darlene D. Williams retired shortly following the layoffs.

The planning department has since been reduced to Dawes and head secretary Kristie Martin.

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