Walker to return as city planner on interim basis

Published 5:02 pm Thursday, January 27, 2022

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NATCHEZ — Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson recommended Tuesday that the Board of Aldermen hire a former Natchez city planner on an interim basis to fill the same position, which was vacated recently by Riccardo Giani.

Philip Walker served as city planner in Natchez from 1991-1993. He now owns his own firm, The Walker Collaborative, in Nashville. Giani resigned recently to accept a position in Charleston, South Carolina.

Philip Walker

Gibson said Walker, who lives in Nashville, would work remotely, but would spend one day a month in Natchez.

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“We have been advertising for a new city planner but are having difficulty with finding a candidate that meets the requirements,” Gibson said. “It appears the more time will be needed to find the right candidate.”

He said Mimi Miller and Carter Burns of the Historic Natchez Foundation, who have traditionally worked closely with the Natchez city planning department, have been assisting with the search.

“In the meantime, the business of the city has to go on and we have been able to visit over the phone with Phil Walker, who formerly performed this role for the city a few years back and is extremely qualified and he has provided an agreement that is within our budget based on what we have been paying the current city planner. This will allow him to provide services to the city at a monthly rate for the next few months. We would hope this would only last perhaps three months,” Gibson said.

During that time, he said Walker would assist with some ordinance revisions and in the re-establishment of the Downtown Natchez Association, “but most importantly he will serve as a little bit of a headhunter to help us find a qualified person to step in and fill that role.”

“Walker will run the meetings of the preservation and planning commissions, and we will need to temporarily change the meeting schedule of those so they can be conducted during the same week.”

Walker’s contract includes paying for his travel to and from Natchez once a month.

“The Historic Natchez Foundation has offered the free use of a property they own for lodging to help reduce the cost of that travel,” Gibson said.

Alderman Billie Joe Frazier balked at offering an open-ended contract to Walker.

“I understand we are short handed and we need a city planner, but my concern is this: I don’t want this to be a long-term thing because Mr. Walker does stay in Nashville, Tennessee. I think we can do this two or three months, but I don’t want to do more than two or three months because we are doing a grave injustice to our citizens hiring someone from out of town,” Frazier said.

Gibson said the contract with Walker is limited to six months.

“With the growth we are experiencing, we need a full-time person in the office,” he said.