Walker to Return as Acting City Planner – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper
NATCHEZ — Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson recommended Tuesday that the council of aldermen hire a former Natchez town planner on an interim basis to fill the same position, which was vacated recently by Riccardo Giani.
Philip Walker was an urban planner at Natchez from 1991 to 1993. He now owns his own business, The Walker Collaborative, in Nashville. Giani recently resigned to accept a position in Charleston, South Carolina.
Gibson said Walker, who lives in Nashville, will work remotely but spend one day a month at Natchez.
“We advertised for a new planner, but we’re having trouble finding a candidate who meets the requirements,” Gibson said. “It seems like the longer it will take to find the right candidate.”
He said Mimi Miller and Carter Burns of the Natchez Historical Foundation, who have traditionally worked closely with Natchez’s planning department, helped with the search.
“In the meantime City business must continue and we were able to visit on the phone Phil Walker who previously played this role for the City a few years ago and is extremely qualified and he has provided an agreement that is in our budget based on what we paid the current planner. This will allow it to provide services to the city at a monthly rate for the next few months. We’re hoping it’ll only be maybe three months,” Gibson said.
Meanwhile, he said Walker will help with some prescription reviews and the re-establishment of the Downtown Natchez Association, “but more importantly, he’ll serve as a bit of a headhunter to help us find a qualified person to step in and fill this role.
“Walker will lead meetings of the Preservation and Planning Commissions, and we will need to temporarily reschedule these meetings so that they can take place during the same week.”
Walker’s contract includes payment for his travel to and from Natchez once a month.
“The Natchez Historical Foundation has offered free use of a property it owns for lodging to help reduce the cost of this trip,” Gibson said.
Alderman Billie Joe Frazier was reluctant to offer Walker an indefinite contract.
“I understand that we are understaffed and need a planner, but my concern is this: I don’t want this to be a long-term thing because Mr. Walker is staying 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 serious injustice to our citizens by hiring someone from out of town,” said Frazier.
Gibson said Walker’s contract is limited to six months.
“With the growth we are experiencing, we need a full-time person in the office,” he said.