By NATHAN GREGORY
The Starkville Board of Aldermen hired former city of Tuscaloosa, Ala. director of planning and economic development William Snowden for the director of community development position Tuesday during its recess meeting.
Snowden retired as Tuscaloosa’s director of economic development last September after a 10-year tenure. Snowden was also the director of planning in Auburn, Ala. from 1987-89. He was a private planning consultant from 1994-2001 and has served planning director-related posts in Rock Hill, S.C. and Albany, Ga.
A date for when Snowden will officially begin his duties has not been set. The board placed consideration of his hire on the consent agenda and set his annual salary at $75,000.
Snowden said he looked forward to bringing his experience to Starkville.
“I’m very honored and humbled they selected me after exhaustive selection process. The opportunity I have here is to build an alliance between the Golden Triangle (Regional Development Authority), Mississippi State University, the city of Starkville and the citizens of Starkville,” Snowden said. “We’re on the same team and you don’t get anything done without being a team player. That is how you get city planning done. Sixty-five percent of planning is selling. That’s where it takes the extra hours to bring all these groups together and have one common vision for the future.”
Snowden said chief among his skills in the field was his ability to negotiate. Being that he’s worked in multiple other college towns in the Southeast region, he said he knew how to achieve common ground between developers and property owners with differing interest. An example of this during his time in Tuscaloosa, he said, was reaching agreements between owners of traditional single-family dwellings and rental units whose properties were close to each other in the city’s historic districts. He said he was able to incentivize locating and developing multi-family units in areas outside the historic district and improve the property value of historic district properties.
“That couldn’t have happened without the assistance of the historic districts, the development community, the University of Alabama and the city of Tuscaloosa,” he said. “The common goal of planning is to improve the quality of life for the citizens of the city … You have to have all players involved in that quality of life. You’ve got to work extra hard to make this happen but it’s very doable.”
Snowden said while he enjoyed his experience in Tuscaloosa, he felt by the end of his time there that he was losing his “fresh eyes” on how to improve the development process in the community. A new community gave him an opportunity to provide insight from outside the community on how to improve development, he said.
“What’s crucial to success in city planning is when you first come in, you see the city differently than someone raised in the city because it’s brand new to you. When you come in with fresh eyes, it’s not that you’re smarter than anyone else,” he said. “It’s just that you see things that somebody who’s lived here all their lives wouldn’t see.”
Mayor Parker Wiseman said he’s looking forward to having Snowden’s expertise.
“Mr. Snowden has a brilliant track record. His past stops previously in two college towns, in Auburn many years ago and more recently in Tuscaloosa, and his track record is impeccable. I expect him to be somebody that will have not only first-class knowledge and expertise of the planning profession but also a can-do attitude that will facilitate development projects in the future,” Wiseman said. “It’s exciting that someone of caliber would seek this position and I am thrilled about what this means for our future. One thing he brings with him is a reputation of being a problem solver and a solution finder. He was very clear with us during the interview process that he thinks it’s important for a planner not to get entrenched in a position for too long. I think he brings fresh eyes now to this community, and with his background, I have every reason to believe that’s going to be a huge win for development in Starkville.”
Snowden said he appreciates the opportunity to collaborate with various city, county and university groups.
“I learn from everybody I sit down and talk to and I anticipate the same thing happening in Starkville to help me envision a better Starkville for the next 20-30 years,” Snowden said.