February 21, 2013 9:45:39 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
The Starkville Board of Aldermen hired former Tuscaloosa, Ala. economic developer William L. "Bill" Snowden Tuesday to serve as the city's first director of community development.
Snowden's hire was placed on the consent agenda Tuesday and approved without debate. The board set his salary at $75,000. Snowden said Wednesday he will move with his wife to Starkville in either March or early April and start his job immediately.
Snowden earned a master's degree in political science and public administration from Jacksonville (Ala.) State University in 1971 and received a master's degree in city planning from Georgia Tech in 1977.
He served in numerous economic development capacities for Tuscaloosa for 10 years and worked in planning departments for Auburn, Ala., Birmingham, Ala., Albany, Ga., and Rock Hill, S.C.
Major institutions of higher learning call all five of those cities home.
Snowden said his first priorities are to meet city employees and begin immersing himself with various Starkville stakeholders. Continuing his development career in a college town made the job opening seem attractive, he said.
"I love college towns and their atmospheres and lifestyles. You've got a better advantage here being a leg up in long-range planning - that's something only university towns like this can offer," Snowden said. "One of the first things we need to do is focus on attracting quality developments. The more of those you have, the more parks, more bike lanes and better quality of life you can afford."
The need for a community developer occurred after former Starkville City Planner Ben Griffith resigned from his position in October. The city's chief administrative officer, Lynn Spruill, was chosen to lead the department on an interim basis. Aldermen authorized her to rename the Starkville Building, Codes and Planning Department to the Community Development Department, a move, she said, that allows a forward-looking, more user-friendly approach to development.
Four finalists emerged from the city's search, and the board interviewed three applicants on Feb. 6 during a special-call meeting.
Mayor Parker Wiseman said Snowden is a fantastic hire for the city and will succeed as Starkville's first community developer.
"(Snowden) spent much of the last decade being part of an era of unprecedented growth in Tuscaloosa. Frankly, I'm excited that someone with his credentials and track record was interested in joining the city," Wiseman said. "To me, (his interest) is an encouraging sign showing where we are as a city. It speaks volumes to the momentum that we're building that he sought us and this position out."
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch