City Planner Nix swayed by Natchez’s charm

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 4, 2010

NATCHEZ — You could say Robert Nix’s first impression of Natchez was love at first sight.

Nix, who was recently hired as city planner, said he and his wife fell victim to Natchez’s natural charm.

“We really liked the town,” Nix said. “It’s got a lot of history, a lot of character and the people are wonderful. We were impressed with the way we were treated by the people there.”

Among Nix’s responsibilities as city planner is being the gatekeeper of Natchez’s storied architectural history. The city’s planning and zoning department addresses matters relating to zoning, real estate development and development plan review. The department also works closely with the Natchez Planning Commission and the Natchez Preservation Commission.

Nix, who will begin work June 14, said his initial plans for the department are not yet set in stone.

“The first thing I’ve got to do is find out what’s going on, and find out what the issues are … look at how the operations work and make some recommendations after I’ve had the chance to assess the situations,” Nix said. “I know there will be some immediate issues to deal with whatever they are, but other than that I’ll be watching and listening mostly.”

Nix has spent most of his career in the planning field. He started his career at the West Florida Regional Planning Council in the mid-1970s. From there, he went on to serve as director of development services for the City of Deltona, Fla., director of growth management for St. Lucie County, Fla., and assistant city manager of development services for the City of Corpus Christi, Texas.

Nix most recently served as director of community development and planning for the City of North Miami Beach, Fla. He served in that post for nine months before stepping down in January.

“Sometimes things work out and sometimes it doesn’t” Nix said of his experience in North Miami Beach. “We were looking for something different to do … to continue on in public life or do some consulting work.

“We came to Natchez, we liked the town and we decided to continue to (public work).”

Nix, who managed as many as 70 employees in Corpus Christi, will inherit a staff of one in Natchez. Natchez Building Inspector Paul Dawes, who currently serves as interim city planner, is set to retire June 30, which leaves the department with head secretary Kristie Martin.

Mayor Jake Middleton said Nix will have the opportunity to hire his own staff.

“It will likely be a three-person staff, which includes (Nix), an assistant or land use planner and an administrative assistant,” Middleton said.

Middleton said of the 10 candidates who applied for city planner, Nix was the most versatile.

“He just had a good, well rounded resume,” Middleton said. “He’s got a lot of years experience and has a background in different fields such as historic preservation.”

Middleton credited Nix’s work in Deltona, where Nix was the city’s first planner, and created organizations for planning, zoning, development review, code enforcement and building permitting.

City Clerk Donnie Holloway said Nix’s annual salary will be $48,000 — the same annual salary of former Natchez City Planner John “Rusty” Lewis.