Thoburn appointed permanent director of City's Planning Department

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  • | 12:00 p.m. January 5, 2007
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by Mike Sharkey

Staff Writer

After spending three months as the “acting” director, Brad Thoburn has been appointed director of Jacksonville’s Planning and Development Department by Mayor John Peyton.

Previously, Thoburn served as a key aide to both Mayor John Delaney and Peyton, handling federal and state government affairs for the city and a number of special projects. His responsibilities included directing the work of the Growth Management Task Force. The task force’s report will serve as the template for the city’s 2030 master plan for growth, development and infrastructure.

“Brad is a tremendous asset to the city. I am confident in his ability to lead this department as we plan for our future growth,” said Peyton.

Thoburn started with the City in 1998 as a member of the Delaney administration, where he primarily handled state and federal issues related to Jacksonville government. Thoburn said his new position wasn’t part of his plans, but it’s a position he has grown to enjoy and appreciate. His department’s work impacts the daily life of people throughout the city.

“It was not something I sought out,” said Thoburn. “It’s something folks like Steve [Diebenow, Peyton’s chief of staff] and the mayor talked about after we worked on the Growth Management Task Force.

“They felt I was objective, I had worked with policy before and I could take things on level-headed and fairly. The transition here made a lot of sense.”

Thoburn officially takes over a 70-plus person department that includes long-term planning, capital planning, zoning and historic preservation. Thoburn said he’s looking forward to a job that will allow him to see and impact the “big picture” — a job that requires a good understanding of the city’s issues, from traffic on Atlantic Boulevard to residential density in Springfield to growth management on the southside.

“Previous directors got drawn into the minutiae of the technical planning,” he said. “I am confident we have the people in the department to focus on that [big picture] stuff.”

Aside from shifting his focus from state and federal issues to topics that affect specific places in Jacksonville, the biggest difference for Thoburn is managing a larger department. He believes the new job is easier, though. While in the mayor’s office, Thoburn managed consultants, all of whom had varying interests.

“It’s very difficult,” he said of managing consultants. “In some ways, this is easier. Managing consultants is tough. What you have going may be important to you, but they all have five or 10 clients that think the same thing.”

Peyton also announced several other staff appointments on Tuesday that revolve around the reorganization of the Administration and Finance, Information Technology and Human Resources areas. Those three divisions were previously within Administration & Finance, but have been elevated to departments. The reorganization, which aims to streamline government processes, was approved by City Council on Dec. 12.

Dave Lauer, the current head of the Information Technology Division, has been appointed chief information officer and director of the new Information Technology Department. He will continue to lead efforts to identify technology solutions and improve service to Jacksonville’s taxpayers.

Becky Salter has been appointed director of human resources. She currently serves as interim chief of the city’s Human Resources Division. Salter will direct and administer hiring, recruiting and training for the city.

Cal Ray has been promoted to the position of deputy director of the Administration and Finance Department. He will manage many of the department’s day-to-day activities and play a key role in the formulation of the city’s annual budget.

Kent Olson has been appointed budget officer. Olson joins the city after serving more than five years with the City of Orlando as assistant treasurer and treasurer.

“Dave and Becky have demonstrated their commitment to helping us continuously improve the government’s efficiency, streamlining our operations and lowering costs,” said Peyton. “Cal is a consummate professional that adds great value to Administration and Finance Department and city government as a whole. His expertise is invaluable.”

All appointments are subject to confirmation by City Council.